Permission for Mental Health Screening of Children

Final Victory for Parental Rights!


The Senate bill passed the floor 31-0, March 23, 2009.

The House bill has passed the subcommittee, the full Health and Human Resources Committee, the Calendar and Rules Committee and is now on the Consent Calendar on the House floor, April 20.

After four years of sometimes very frustrating and hard work, it is an enormous pleasure to report that HB 1552 passed on the House Floor 95-0 on April 20.  The rights of parents to be fully involved in the mental health decisions for their children will now be fully protected!  In view of the new Mental Health Standards and Guidelines under development (see below), having this legislation in place becomes even more important.

On May 5, 2009, Governor Bredesen signed the legislation and it became Public Law 127.

SPECIAL NOTE:  The State Board of Education just held the 'first reading' for the new Mental Health Standards and Guidelines. These will now be reviewed for corrections and changes prior to being presented again at the SBOE July meeting. This action makes our bill even more important and the timing could be more perfect to make sure the parents rights are protected!!


Summary of bill prohibiting ‘automatic’ mental health testing

*SB 0850 by *Black, HB 1552 by *Harwell As introduced, places restrictions on universal mental health testing, or psychiatric or socioemotional screening of juveniles; requires certain consent by a juvenile's parent, guardian, legal custodian, or caregiver before such testing can occur

The Department of Mental Health and the Department of Children Services have worked with us to craft language that is satisfactory to all parties.  We are grateful for their assistance. In a Senate Committee, a Department of Education representative stated that they were satisfied with the language.


1.      Definitions.

2.      Defines ‘psychotropic medication’.

3.      Outlines conditions under which screening may be done as required by existing law.

4.      Mental Health testing/screening in INDIVIDUAL cases may occur when a parent, guardian, legal custodian or caregiver has provided written, informed consent; a court requires such screening, in emergency situations, or as required by EPSDT.

5.      Prohibits the LEA from using a parent’s refusal to consent to the administration of psychotropic medication or psychiatric screening, evaluation, etc., as grounds for prohibiting the children from attending class or from charging child abuse, neglect, etc.

6.      Prohibits the LEA from coercing parents to submit child to medication or testing.

7.      Defines what personnel may recommend evaluation, testing, or treatment.

8.      Clarifies that written informed consent can be withdrawn at any time.

9.      Clarifies that this legislation has no impact on the federal ‘Child Find System.’

10. Clarifies that this legislation DOES NOT prohibit an LEA employee from discussing a child’s behavior or academic progress with parents, guardian, or other school district employees.

11. Clarifies that this legislation DOES NOT prohibit referrals, counseling, etc., in event of emergency or crisis situations.

12.  Clarifies that this legislation DOES NOT prohibit treatment, rehab or service plans for children in state custody or as required by federal law.

13. Requires that parent or guardian receive copies of state and federal laws that delineate their rights.

14. Requires local Board of Education to adopt appropriate policies and requires a report to the Department of Education.



Severability clause



Effective date clause.


What this bill DOES NOT do:

1.     Keep any child who has demonstrated ANY sort need from being recommended for evaluation.

2.     Keep a child from being evaluated by appropriate personnel.

3.     Disallow any court-ordered evaluation.

4.     Disallow testing or screening of a child under TCA 33-6-4.

5.     Disallow screening in connection with a disaster or epidemic.

6.     Disallow appropriate referrals under the Child Find System.

7.     Disallow school personnel from discussing child’s behavior or academic progress.

8.     Disallow referrals in urgent situations such as death, suicide, serious injury or illness, etc., of another student or school personnel.