Council bill links mental health, truancy and violence

Capital Land,Erica Redmond
At-large D.C. Councilman David Catania introduced a bill Tuesday that would crack down on student truancy and tailor behavioral health programming to the needs of District schools.
The bill would require mental health screening for children under the age of 6 in order to prevent future behavioral problems, as well as train teachers to evaluate students for mental health problems. The bill also includes tougher truancy standards because truancy is directly linked to violence, Catania said. Currently, students can have 25 unexcused absences during a school year before being referred to the court system. The bill would reduce the number of unexcused absences to seven per month or 10 over the course of a school year.
Catania announced the bill last week on the one-year anniversary of a mass shooting on South Capitol Street that left four teenagers dead.  
“The District’s legacy of failure in these areas created the conditions that made tragedy like the one that occurred a year ago possible,” Catania said last week. “The bill will create the most comprehensive and sophisticated youth mental health screening system in the country and will at long last ensure real enforcement of existing truancy laws."


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