Public Schools Are NYC’s Main Youth Mental Health System. Where Kids Land Often Depends on What Their Parents Can Pay

Public Schools Are NYC’s Main Youth Mental Health System. Where Kids Land Often Depends on What Their Parents Can Pay

On Staten Island, a middle schooler with a hair-trigger temper was in a fistfight every week. In north Brooklyn, a ninth grader cut class for months before he tried to commit suicide. A few miles east, where Brooklyn meets the marshlands of Jamaica Bay, a 13-year-old ended up in a psychiatric emergency room after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down her school.

These kids all had two things in common: First, they were part of a growing cohort of students with serious mental health and behavioral problems that got in the way of their education. And second, they lived in New York City, which meant that their problems became, at least in part, the responsibility of the city’s school system.

Under federal law, school districts are required to provide all students, including those with mental health and behavioral problems, a “free and appropriate education.” In theory, this means that when a student is struggling to learn, districts must conduct assessments, create individualized plans and, if a child’s needs can’t be met in public schools, pay tuition for a private school — all at no cost to kids or their families.

In practice, however, what happens to students in New York City’s special education system often depends on the personal resources a family brings to the table. At each step of the way — identifying a disability, creating a service plan, deciding where a child will learn and who will pay for it — a family’s ability to spend its own money can secure a completely different outcome from the city’s public education system.

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CITE is the Center for Integrated Training and Education.
For over 25 years, CITE has and continues to train:

TEACHERS: General and Special Ed Masters (Early Childhood or Childhood), Adolescent Special Ed / Professional Certification Masters, TESOL MastersSpecial Ed license extension courses, Bilingual license extension coursesTESOL license extension courses, Early Childhood license extension courses

COUNSELORSSchool Counseling MastersMental Health Counseling MastersAdvanced Certificate in Mental Health or School Counseling

ADMINISTRATORSSchool Building LeadershipSchool District LeadershipDoctorate for CSA members, Doctorate for non-CSA membersPublic Administration Master’s

— in all five boroughs of NYC, Yonkers, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk.

CITE PD: CITE offers CTLE-approved in-school or online professional development tailored to your school’s needs and your vision. We can work remotely with your staff and parents. Info: