Too Many Problem School Kids? Hire More Counselors!

In its ongoing transformation from an organization dedicated to protecting civil liberties into an organization dedicated to advancing social justice causes, the ACLU has issued a report, “Cops and No Counselors,” which makes the case that “the lack of school mental health staff is harming students.” (The study was picked up obligingly by Richmond’s WRIC TV.)

The ACLU, which has taken the lead in instituting a social justice model of school discipline in Virginia schools, argues that Virginia should reallocate resources from law enforcement and “school resource” officers to more mental health counseling.

The study documents that 86% of Virginia students attend schools that fail to meet the benchmark of American and Virginia school counselor associations of at least one counselor per every 250 students. As WVIR notes, mental health support for schools was a focus of the General Assembly this year. Among other measures enacted, the budget set aside $12 million to cover the cost of hiring about 250 more counselors across the state, enough to reduce the ratio of counselors to high school students from 1-to-350-to 1-to-325.

Another bill requires counselors to spend 80% of their day working with students. Apparently, counselors aren’t doing enough counseling.

“They’re spending a lot of their time doing administrative tasks and doing things like testing instead of spending the majority of their time providing mental health services,” said Ashley Everette, a policy analyst with Voices for Virginia’s Children. “There aren’t enough of them.” Virginia needs to invest in health services within schools “because schools are where children typically are.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Schools, once envisioned as places where students learn to master reading, math and other academic subjects, is increasingly regarded by social-justice activists as an incubator of social reform. It is falling upon schools to ameliorate the affects of an increasingly dysfunctional society and increasingly prevalent disabilities, such as autism and ADHD, of unknown provenance. As always, the interests of the afflicted students are paramount and the interests of non-afflicted — I don’t dare say “normal” children, for fear of transgressing some progressive taboo — are subordinate. I have yet to see an ACLU study of the effect of school-discipline changes on the quality of education provided students who behave themselves and play by the rules.