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CT education officials order inquiry into Killingly’s denial of a school-based mental health center

Friends and former Killingly High School students Cillian Young (left) and Julia Revellese talk outside the State Board of Education meeting room after the two testified Nov. 2, 2022, to the Board on the importance of providing mental health services to Killingly students.
Mark Mirko
/
Connecticut Public
Friends and former Killingly High School students Cillian Young (left) and Julia Revellese talk outside the State Board of Education meeting room after the two testified before the board on Nov. 2, 2022, about their support for providing mental health services to Killingly students.

The Connecticut State Board of Education voted Wednesday to order an investigation into the Killingly school district for its refusal to open a school-based mental health center at its high school.

The board said the district is unable to implement the educational interests of the state.

The move is the next step in the saga that began in March, when the town’s school board voted against setting up a mental health clinic at Killingly High School. That set off months of tension between the board and groups of parents, students and educators who say the mental health needs of the district’s children need more attention and support.

“The actions, or rather the inaction, of the board amounts to deliberate indifference,” said Mike McKeon, an attorney for the State Board of Education who investigated the situation. He said there was “an inexplicable refusal to address these needs of their students” despite the fact that the board had recognized those same needs in the past.

At a public hearing before the vote, a lawyer representing the Killingly board read a statement, arguing that the state should dismiss the complaint against the town’s board on procedural grounds. She also pushed back against claims that the board failed to address student mental health needs.

Still, the state board approved the move, with no member voicing opposition. Next, the board will appoint a three-person panel to begin a formal inquiry.

Jeff Cohen started in newspapers in 2001 and joined Connecticut Public in 2010, where he worked as a reporter and fill-in host. In 2017, he was named news director. Then, in 2022, he became a senior enterprise reporter.