Schools must provide counseling
By Gene Eakin
The second week of February – February 7-11, 2022 – is National School Counseling Week (NSCW) and is the time annually when districts and communities acknowledge and celebrate the work of school counselors. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) provides national leadership for NSCW and the Oregon School Counselor Association (OSCA) Governing Board under the leadership of President Roberto Aguilar provides state leadership for this week of acknowledgment of the approximately 1,400 school counselors in Oregon.
The OSCA Board would also like to take this time to call the public’s attention to several matters. The first is that all counselors and administrators need to be more well-informed about the Oregon Statutes – OAR 581-022-2060 – mandating that school districts provide comprehensive school counseling services to all students and utilize the Oregon Framework in doing so. Secondly, school districts need to hire licensed school counselors to develop and implement the comprehensive school counseling program. Licensed school counselors are the one professional possessing a master’s degree and prepared to provide the career and college readiness counseling, academic counseling, personal-social counseling, and student community engagement required in the statutes.
Unfortunately, there is a tremendous amount of inequity in the provision of these services across eastern and central Oregon. A few districts have no licensed school counselors and other districts have no licensed school counselors in their elementary schools. Smaller districts do access their ESD and community health services; however, it is unlikely that students in these districts receive the full complement of comprehensive services spelled out in the statute. On the other hand, there are districts that have maintained licensed school counselors in all their schools and others that have just recently added counselors in their elementary schools.
The Oregon statutes are based on the belief that all children in Oregon deserve comprehensive school counseling programs. Don’t you? Are the students in your schools receiving the same K-12 comprehensive program as students in other districts throughout the state? If not, why not? Check with your school board and your superintendent to find out if the district has a comprehensive program and then hire licensed school counselors to deliver that program.
Note that the School Counselor Association is aware of the challenges districts in eastern and central Oregon face in hiring licensed school counselors should the district decide to do so. OSCA will be requesting the State Board of Education, the Oregon Legislature, and the six school counselor education programs collaborate with the OSCA Board to develop and implement a plan to address the issues raised above.
In closing, the OSCA Board sends a heart-felt thanks to not only all school counselors but also to all certified, administrative, and classified staff for their dedication to Oregon’s students. The 2022 Mental Health America Report once again reported that Oregon’s children and adolescents ranked in the bottom five of the 50 states with regard to having community mental health resources equal to the need.
The burden for meeting these needs thus falls disproportionately on our schools. As the Oregon Education Association has documented in their report — “A Crisis In Disrupted Learning” — our schools need more school counselors, nurses, psychologists, and community mental health resources. Thank you everyone for the amazing work you are doing during these challenging times!
Gene Eakin, Ph.D., is the Advocacy Chair for the Oregon School Counselor Association.