Schools across the United States have been shifting a lot of job responsibilities in recent years to therapy staff members. Some of this is due to budget cuts and new jobs not being created. At the same time, some of it is because of increased needs of the students within the schools. Schools are faced with more students that have special needs, are living in poverty, and have limited English language skills. These circumstances have caused the ratio of students-to-therapists to change dramatically.
Addressing the Needs of Your Students
The Sioux Falls School District recently conducted their own study of their schools. The purpose was to look at all areas of the support services within the district. This included guidance counselors, social workers, and individuals that work with English as a Second Language (ESL) students, and other behavioral and at-risk students. The study found that the usual ratio of support staff to number of students was not working. Factors within the schools were taking some of the therapists away from the students and not allowing for proper counseling sessions. The results from the yearlong study showed that the district needs to hire additional guidance counselors and add more support staff training.
This reality is facing many districts, which also need to take the time to reevaluate the need for more people within certain schools. Counselors, social workers, and others need to be able to work not only on the daily issues that pop up for students, but to work on strategies for intervention and prevention of behaviors and troubles. Like the Sioux Falls School District, schools across the country need to take time to reassess what is going on in their buildings.
Working Together and Getting the Word out
Support staff members need to speak up, give examples, and share what is really happening on a daily basis. One school social worker in a building of 500 or more students may not be enough to assist with the growing needs of students. Someone should be available to talk with individuals when they need it, while others can go into classrooms for more outreach. Children need an individual in their school that they can go to and trust. If that person is running from room to room and unable to talk, a child may feel ignored or frustrated. All individuals within a department need to brainstorm on how they are reaching the student population and think about how they are missing the needs and report it back to their Boards of Education. It is only through careful investigation that districts will become more aware of the potential lack of therapy staff within their schools.