BERWYN, Pa., March 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Behavioral Intervention Team Association (NaBITA) is committed to making our campuses, schools, and workplaces safer environments by fostering and encouraging development, education, and caring intervention. As the leading organization in the field of behavioral intervention teams (BITs), NaBITA provides education, best practice recommendations, and on-going trainings through two annual conferences, several certification trainings yearly, a weekly newsletter, and frequent online trainings. NaBITA serves as a best practices clearinghouse for over 1,550 members by providing BIT-related model policies, training tools, and templates. For more information, visit www.nabita.org.
NaBITA is committed to supporting its member institutions including developing practical takeaways from recent court cases and incidents of violence. This position statement offers insights regarding the October 2018 Northern Michigan University (NMU) case and what colleges and schools can learn from the Department of Justice's decision.
The NMU case offers NaBITA a timely opportunity to address best practices for colleges and schools with respect to the involuntary leave or withdrawal of students who are a legitimate safety risk to self or a direct threat of harm to others. The case centers on a student who sent a chat message to a friend about her major depression and her doctor's concern regarding her risk for suicide. In response to this, NMU required the student to complete a psychological assessment and sign a behavioral agreement requiring the student to refrain from talking to others about her potential suicidal ideation. NMU also reportedly "threatened to disenroll" the student. Three other students were identified during the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation who were also required to complete similar agreements with NMU. This position statement outlines NaBITA's stance regarding how and when to make the decision to separate students from the institution, how colleges and schools can appropriately assess risk and deploy interventions, and the use of behavioral agreements.
Moving forward, NaBITA suggests:
- Use an evidence-based risk rubric to ensure each case is reviewed based on objective criteria to assess severity of behavior and immanency of risk, and to assure that interventions applied line up with the gravity of the concern.
- Use a collaborative, case-management centered process that works with the student, family, and emergency contact to identify what is in the best interests of the student.
- Avoid threatening a student with separation (or conduct code action) for airing suicidal thoughts, and don't threaten or leverage involuntary withdrawal as a condition of noncompliance.
- Take a stance of working with the student through an interactive process, and develop a plan based on a good-faith desire for the student to be successful at the college or university.
- Collaborate with disability services, or the school's ADA Coordinator as a middle circle member of the BIT who is invited to meetings as needed and consults on specific cases.
- Use the conduct process appropriately, rather than as an arbitrary agreement or contract, to address and sanction behavior that violates the code of conduct. The BIT is not supposed to be a diversion from student conduct consequences.
- Review and revise disciplinary, conduct, and withdrawal policies to bring them into compliance with the requirements of Title II and the standard of a legitimate safety risk.
- Carefully weigh any restrictions placed on students discussing mental health issues with others on a case-by-case basis with an eye to reasonable accommodations and how to help the student be successful and remain on campus. Preventing a student from talking about suicidal ideation with others may be a way to prevent copycatting, but it can also deprive the student of the lifeline relationships that are known protective factors in the prevention of suicide.
- When addressing cases of harm to others, NaBITA recommends a mandated violence risk or threat assessment, rather than a mental health assessment, when the behavior crosses the "elevated" threshold on the NaBITA Risk Rubric. A mental health assessment does not typically include an assessment of factors related to the potential for violence as found in workplace violence literature, but rather a focus on hospital level of care, medication referral, and treatment recommendations. While these may be helpful for the student, they do not give an adequate assessment of risk and development of a threat management plan.
Ratified by the NaBITA Advisory Board on February 4th, 2019.
SOURCE National Behavioral Intervention Team Association