Counselors vital after deaths of six students, but aren’t they critical all the time?

April 25, 2017 – Fairburn – The scene at Langston Hughes High School as buses line up at dismissal. Four students were killed and another injured Monday in a crash involving a tractor-trailer and a Lincoln Navigator. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

A friend who is a school counselor says her work days come full of surprises. She never knows what she’ll walk into day-to-day.

Today, counselors at two metro high schools walked into walls of grief.

In Fulton, Langston Hughes High School students mourned four classmates who died Monday at 1:15 p.m. when their Lincoln Navigator struck a tractor-trailer. A fifth student was hospitalized with leg injuries and bleeding in the brain.

The Lassiter High School community in Cobb grieved the deaths of two brothers a few hours later. James Pratt, 18, and Joe, 14, died Monday when their car hit a school bus carrying special-needs students. None of the special-needs students were seriously injured, authorities said.

The deadly crashes have led to the usual discussions around young drivers. But the fatal wrecks also point out the pivotal role of school counselors when tragedy strikes a school community.

In a story today on how counselors help students cope with the sudden and violent deaths of classmates, AJC reporter Ty Tagami writes:

Counselors are in short supply. A 2015 study committee by the Georgia House of Representatives reported one for every 500 student, half as many as are recommended by the American School Counselor Association.

Georgia recommends 450 students per counselor but some schools have far more. Maria Grovner had 750 on her roster when she was a counselor in a metro Atlanta middle school.

To help the overwhelmed school staff in a crisis, districts typically assemble crisis response teams by pulling in staff from other schools and even tapping community organizations for help. Even then, said Grovner, now at the Georgia Department of Education and in charge of training and support for school counselors and social workers, “there are more students than a crisis team can see.”

Fulton brought in 25 counselors, social workers and psychologists from across the district Tuesday to augment the team of six regularly stationed at Langston Hughes High, which has about 1,900 students.

My exposure to school counselors while in high school was confined to class scheduling and college applications. That’s been the same for my four children, but I know students who bonded with their counselor and visited the counseling offices weekly for affirmation and consultation.

I sometimes get emails from parents who maintain school counselors failed to recognize their child’s escalating mental health issues. In schools with 1,000 teens, I’m unsure whether we can expect two counselors to identify every struggling student.

Some parents assume counselors can “treat” their children. While counselors can talk to kids about their challenges, they can’t serve as ongoing therapists even though many students could benefit from therapy. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates 20 percent of youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition but less than half receive needed services.

Everyone grasps the importance of school counselors in the aftermath of student deaths. I’m not as sure the public is generally aware of the everyday need for more counselors in our schools.

Your thoughts?

 

 

Reader Comments 0

32 comments
Betty Jo Bowman
Betty Jo Bowman

NO... They rarely get to be a counselor... they're in charge of setting up , giving out the tests books to teachers & collect test booklets , & bundle them to be picked up for State grading.! !! They get to be counseling WHEN THERE'S BEEN A TRAGEDY !!! SAD....most would welcome counseling every day to help students & never be in charge of tests books again...

gapeach101
gapeach101

Beside the obvious funding issues, counselors don't count in the teacher to child ratios.  So, if you add more counselors your administrative costs increase and everyone complains about that.                                                                                      

affleckmintz
affleckmintz

Many school counselors are used as nothing more than test coordinators, etc. They are treated like a fancy, but nonessential, addition to the school staff. They can't possibly do their job; the ratios of counselor to students is too high.

Kids aren't a priority in this society. Just look around, and you'll see.

Harlequin
Harlequin

Counselors in the schools I taught in were too often used as administrative "paper shufflers" and got to do very little, if any actual counseling. About the only time you saw them out side the office was during standardized testing, or if there was a crisis situation involving a student or students who had died (often violently.)

Luke
Luke

@Harlequin Yes, it would be great if legislation passed that would increase the counseling function of counselors and left administrative work to clerks.  

Bill O'Rourke
Bill O'Rourke

How did we get this far without counselors at every school?

Dennis Earl Spain
Dennis Earl Spain

I agree that counselors should be present at our schools because tragedies happen every day. Having no food, clothing or shelter is a tragedy. Being sexually assaulted is a tragedy. Living in a severe drug and alcohol environment is a tragedy; to name a few. As a person who dealt with some of these aforementioned issues as a child I would have loved to have a professional with answers and compassion to hear my cries.

Linda Staton
Linda Staton

Should be, but most students will not talk to them

Dana Baldwin-Jones
Dana Baldwin-Jones

That's not true. They will. They want someone compassionate to talk to. I'm a mental health professional that went into schools to service youth for years.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Good morning, everyone.


I am writing to ask as many readers, as feel inclined, to please TEXT the word  "VETO" on your I-phone and send that word to 644-33, which will inform Governor Deal that you wish him to VETO the "Guns Allowed on Campus" bill, presently on his desk.  Thanks.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Every day and every forum seems appropriate to this political zealot.

Blynne Roberts
Blynne Roberts

Yes!!! So much goes on during the course of a school day. If you don't work in a school, YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!!! School Counselors are vital FOR ALL 180 DAYS OF THE SCHOOL YEAR- EVERY YEAR!!!!!

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

I came through high school in the early 1960s and we experienced death of classmates. We dealt with the grief amongst ourselves since our academic counsellors already had fulltime jobs. We were much better adjusted than today's snowflakes who expect legions of grief counsellors when anything unexpected happens.

One step to improving public schools is to eliminate the nanny state philosophy.

DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

@BurroughstonBroch

How do you know how EVERYONE who went to school in the 60s dealt with grief? Did you conduct a poll of a reasonable statistical size sample group? I'm guessing no. Based off of your 'snowflake' slur I'm guessing that you are just voicing your own deplorable opinion. 

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Did I state I was speaking for everyone? Since you have reading comprehension difficulty, I will answer for you. No.

Pride goeth before a fall.

Starik
Starik

@BurroughstonBroch I had the same experience in the early '60s. We survived. I knew 5 kids who died, four in one crash, and one friend. No counselling.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@ DrProudBlackMan

"We" is a common noun referring to my classmates and me.

gapeach101
gapeach101

@BurroughstonBroch Perhaps you should have said " We, the privileged few", that would have been more understood.

I will also say, most kids in the 60s went home to their mothers after school, where tragedies could be talked through.  That's not the case anymore.  Most of the moms are working.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@ DrProudBlackMan

Your facility with the English language has deteriorated. I suspect you mainly communicate these days in ebonics, with a few Democrat Party talking points thrown in.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@gapeach101 @BurroughstonBroch  I attended a small high school in North Georgia and none of us were privileged, except we had working parents who demanded we study hard and behave. We were not encouraged to be snowflakes.My mother and father both worked.



BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

If you indeed are a doctor, you knew proper English at one time.

If you are black and your English language facility is decreased, you are making more use of ebonics.

Astropig
Astropig

As a parent of three,I know that no matter how short or seemingly routine the trip,I always worried every minute that mine were gone on an errand,to school or to their friends house.I constantly reinforced the mantra "buckle up", "be careful" and "pay attention!!!". Cell phones were just becoming common in those days and texting was rare,so they were not the distraction that they have become.I silently said a prayer every single time for their safe return. I still do.


I can't imagine the grief that these families are feeling.The sense of loss and hurt will probably never fade.I believe that they need the community to really help them in the days ahead.As a parent, my thoughts and prayers are with them and I couldn't be more sorry for their loss.

Kate Maloney
Kate Maloney

As a teacher, I can tell you they are vital every single day. Most of us would say if you are going to create one extra allotment, hire a counselor.