This brief discusses how the School Responder Model (SRM) framework connects with federal special education and nondiscrimination law and highlight how SRMs may operate outside of the special education framework within a school. The SRM is a framework for identifying student mental health needs and establishing pathways to community-based services for those needs, either as a response to misbehavior in school or as a tool to prevent misbehavior in school. Implementing school-based mental health screening is a crucial first step in any SRM structure. Screening facilitates a clinical assessment for students with an indicated need for further evaluation. 

Potential identification of mental health needs among students often leads school personnel to question how the SRM and their obligations under the laws that govern special education and accommodations for students with disabilities intersect. This brief will addresses several of the frequently asked questions related to this concern, including: 

  • Should an SRM focus only on students classified with a disability under the IDEA or Section 504? 
  • How might the screening and assessment process of an SRM connect with a school’s existing processes for students with disabilities under the IDEA and Section 504? 
  • Is there a connection between SRM services and special education services? 
  • Will a school district become responsible for payment of needed services because of an SRM? 

The National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice (NCYOJ) originally developed and maintained this resource. The NCYOJ was operated by Policy Research, Inc. and operated from 2001 to 2022 and was formerly known as the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. The NCYOJ improved life opportunities for youth through systems and practice improvement initiatives.  

This resource should be viewed as a reference document. It has not been updated since its publication. In addition, this document has not been made 508 compliant. If you would like a 508 compliant version of this document, please email 

This resource was first shared in 2014. 

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