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HARRISBURG, PA (March 2, 2020) – Pennsylvania’s public schools need more school nurses and mental health professionals to provide the one-on-one support that students need to be healthy, safe, and successful, PSEA President Rich Askey said today.
The need for more education and mental health professionals in our schools was a topic of discussion during an education budget hearing last week before the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee and is likely to be raised again today during a House Appropriations budget hearing.
Askey noted that a report last month from Attorney General Josh Shapiro showed that bullying, depression and anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal ideation were among the top categories of tips received during the first year of the Safe2Say Something program.
“The attorney general’s Safe2Say report underscores the tremendous need for more mental health professionals in our schools,” Askey said. “We know that school nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers help students address their needs and navigate challenges that would otherwise prevent them from learning.”
State law requires one school nurse for every 1,500 students and sets no requirements for school counselors, psychologists, or social workers.
Gov. Tom Wolf has called for funding more mental health professionals in our schools. PSEA agrees. Askey said that funding more school counselors, psychologists, social workers, and nurses will bolster student health and safety.
“There is no question that mental health issues are taking a toll on our students and standing in the way of their education,” Askey said. “Some students have mental health and social needs that extend well beyond the scope of classroom teachers and support professionals. Those students need support and encouragement, and we need to make sure that highly trained professionals are on hand to provide it.”
Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and the president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 180,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylania.