Psychologists, counselors and nurses will make schools safer
By Virginia Jicha • Guest Columnist
I was in the process of writing about the need for school nurses when the Parkland school shooting happened on Valentine’s Day. As the President of the North Carolina Parent Teacher Association and an educator, I know that we have too few nurses per students — leaving many schools with a nurse one day a week or less and with teachers and administrators needing to respond to health emergencies and manage the daily needs of our children’s many chronic health needs. Each school nurse in the state serves an average of 1,112 students, serving far more students than the federally recommended ratio of one nurse per 750 students.
We need more school nurses and it is a worthwhile investment, but after the school shooting in Florida, we must also revisit our need for school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers. We have one school counselor for every 375 students; this is 50 percent more than the recommended ratio of one counselor for every 250 students. The nationally recommended ratio for school psychologists is one for every 700 students. Currently, the North Carolina ratio is one for every 2,100 students — each one is serving three times as many students as is recommended for comprehensive services. There are also far too few school social workers serving far too many students; the state average is one school social worker for every 1,719 students, nearly five times the national recommendation of one for every 250 students.
When there are not enough nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers in our schools, teachers and principals inevitably fill those roles to the best of their abilities. They are not professionals in these areas, and time spent providing these ancillary services is time not spent teaching our children and preparing them to be curious and innovative forces in our state’s future. Without enough nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers in our schools, there are simply not enough professionals keeping our students healthy and safe.
NCPTA is the state’s oldest and largest volunteer organization advocating for the education, health, safety and success of all children and youth while building strong families and communities. As we discuss class sizes and school safety, let’s discuss the role of these professions in allowing educators to teach, students to learn, and schools to be safe. As we discuss what successful schools, strong families, and healthy communities look like, let’s discuss fully funding and staffing these important jobs in our schools. Our children deserve it.