Current Issues

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Feb 11, 2013

Student Support Act: Reducing the student to counselor ratio

H.R. 320, Student Support Act

Sponsors: Rep. Lee (CA), Rep. Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Chu (D-CA)

Latest Information

ACA supports the Student Support Act, which was re-introduced on January 18, 2013. It amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 requiring the Secretary of Education to make matching grants of at least $1 million to states for allocation to local educational agencies (LEAs) so that additional school-based mental health and student service providers may be hired, thereby reducing the student-to-provider ratios in elementary and secondary schools to specified minimum levels recommended by the leading counseling, guidance, and mental health organizations.

As of February 11, 2013, there are twenty co-sponsors.      

What you can do

Ask your Representatives to sign on as co-sponsors to help build bi-partisan support. To take action right away, use our online email tool with suggested messaging: http://capwiz.com/counseling/home/

If your Representative has already signed on as a co-sponsor, please send a quick thank you message to let her/him know how important this issue is to you.

Background

Since the 110th Congress, Representative Barbara Lee has introduced legislation entitled the Student Support Act. Nationally, the ratio of students to school counselor is 471. This is nearly double ACA’s the recommended ratio. As the Rep. Lee stated in a letter to her colleagues on 1/17/2013, “In order to prevent senseless gun violence from occurring in Sandy Hook, Oakland, Chicago, or any of our communities and schools in America, we must have – as part of a comprehensive plan – an initiative to address the weaknesses in our nation’s mental health services.”  

Statistics/Findings*

  • The Surgeon General of the Public Health Service has found that although 1 in 10 children and adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment, in any given year fewer than 1 in 3 of these children receives needed treatment. The short- and long-term consequences of untreated childhood mental disorders are costly, in both human and fiscal terms.
  • School counselors, school psychologists, other qualified psychologists, child and adolescent1 psychiatrists, and school social workers are needed to help these children and to provide a variety of crucial support services.
  • Across the United States, there are insufficient resources for school-based counseling professionals, and often students do not get the help they need. The current national average ratio of students to school counselors in elementary and secondary schools is 471 to 1.
  • United States schools need more mental health professionals, and they need the flexibility to hire the professionals that will best serve their students.
  • According to the leading counseling, guidance, and mental health organizations the maximum recommended ratio of students to school counselors is 250  to 1; students to school psychologists is 1,000 to 1; and students to school social workers is 250 to 1.
  • In some States, 1 school counselor typically serves over 1,000 students. Ratios for school psychologists and school social workers are also extremely high. In some schools, there are no school based mental health and student service providers available to assist students in times of crisis, or at any other time.
  • The number of students is expected to grow significantly over the next few years. During this time, many school-based mental health professionals who currently serve the Nation’s youth will retire.
  • Model programs using school-based mental health and student service providers have reduced school suspensions, reduced referrals to the principal’s office, reduced the use of weapons, force, and threats, and increased students’ feelings of safety.

* These findings are from the text of this bill, H.R. 320.

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