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To the editor:

Response to “Atop This Teacher’s Wish List: A Counselor in Every School.”

Thumbs up to Chad Hawkes, who expressed in his column the need for a full-time counselor in every school to address mental health needs, bullying, unstable home environments, and other critical issues. He emphasized the need for schools to make this a priority.

According to a report issued by Blue Cross Blue Shield (2018), depression rates have increased by 33% since 2013. This is startling and worrisome. Mental health issues are a growing concern, especially for the American teenager. Addressing mental health concerns is just one of the roles of a full-time school counselor.

Research indicates that the presence and work of school counselors increases the rate of college application among students (Bryan, Moore-Thomas, Day-Vines, & Holcomb-McCoy, 2010). School counselors are especially helpful in increasing the application rates of low SES, academically, and behaviorally struggling students and those who are first-generation college students. The work of school counselors in addressing behavior problems in schools dramatically decreases the recurrence of incidents (Whiston & Sexton, 1998). In one study, 77% of students in a focus group directed by counselors reached their goals and felt they had improved in their skills and behavior (Whiston & Sexton, 1998). Counselors are successful in addressing student concerns that may otherwise go un-reported and unaddressed, and that may lead to serious negative outcomes.

In short, the impact school counselors make among K-12 students is substantial but under-recognized. School counselors are vital, but funding to hire them has been inadequate, leading to ratios that impede what school counselors are trained to do. To echo Hawkes, “The counselors we have now are amazingly competent and are making a huge difference in our schools — we just need more of them.” In the last two legislative sessions, lawmakers have responded to the increase in mental health concerns by providing funding to place mental health professionals, including school counselors, in elementary schools. Early intervention for emotional, behavioral and academic problems saves an enormous amount of time, money, and distress down the road for students and their families. We are still a long way from employing a counselor in every elementary school. Average student to counselor ratios in Utah Schools is 350-to-1 in secondary schools, and 648-to-1 overall. The recommended ratio is 250-to-1 (American School Counselor Association).

Thanks to Mr. Hawkes for his insightful and compelling article. Thanks to Utah’s lawmakers for recognizing the need for placing school counselors in elementary schools and secondary schools. I am excited to become a school counselor. I hope that Utah continues to recognize the need for hiring additional counselors to meet the needs of Utah’s students.

Evin Daines

Student

USU School Counselor Education Program