-Brenda Hummel, SS/HS Project Director, Austin, TX
Collaboration requires leadership. The first step in creating an MOU is to get all the key stakeholders to the table. These include not only school personnel, parents, and students but also representatives from community partners (mental health, law enforcement, juvenile justice, child welfare, etc.) engaged in serving children. This type of collaboration, in which schools and community partners share the common vision of protecting and supporting children and youth, creates an opportunity to develop and sustain long-term inter-agency trust and cooperation (13).
In Helena, Montana, the community resource and referral coordinator—a position created by the SS/HS Initiative—assembled a legal panel comprising the school district’s attorney, a HIPAA-certified expert, the deputy county attorney, and an SRO. This joint legal panel created and delivered confidentialitytraining for community and school partners on the intersection of HIPAA, FERPA, federal drug and alcohol laws, and state codes. Many scenarios were presented during the training. As a follow-up, the team of legal counselors agreed to continue to work together to review scenarios that arise and to provide guidance on how best to proceed.
The Austin (Texas) Independent School District School Board adopted local policies to clarify procedures through which partner organizations can gain access to data on the individual students they serve. In addition, the school district shares aggregate data with the city, county, and other agencies through a "safe harbor" arrangement in which a third party, Children's Optimal Health, houses the data for various studies, often including geographic information systems maps with layered data from multiple sources. Forms, policy statements, procedures, and so on are all housed on the ACCESS homepageso that community partners have one entry point for information.
See the Sample Information-Sharing Documents page of the NIS website for a checklist of the key elements to consider when creating an information-sharing policy.