Recently the Civil Rights Data Collection published a finding of great significance for our profession: “Over 1.6 million students attend a public school that has an on-site law enforcement officer, but no school counselor.” Furthermore when disaggregating the data, we see that these students are more likely to be students of color and come from low-income households. Every child has the right to an equitable education and by denying a segment of our students’ access to a school counselor, we are denying them their right and the opportunity to find success like many of their peers. As school counselors, we can advocate on behalf of our students, use data to show these inequities and work to create systemic change.
Studying to serve as a transformed school counselor within an urban setting, I know the importance of our positions to the educational community and, moreover, to the communities our students live in. School counselors not only provide academic support, but college and career counseling. We work to help students prepare for life beyond school walls, for both educational and occupational opportunities. A comprehensive school counseling program has the power to provide students with social and cultural capital, and serve as a link between a student’s home and school environments. School counselors work to bridge many gaps—in access, attainment and achievement—which students face. By developing and collecting comprehensive needs assessments, we are able to implement developmentally appropriate interventions, broadening students’ knowledge, attitudes and skills in specific areas. Consultation and collaboration with key stakeholders lead to the implementation of carefully considered interventions to best benefit students.
We advocate on behalf of our students in the school setting, but we need to advocate on behalf of our profession in order to reach the greatest number of students. Not all states require the hiring of part- or full-time school counselors. Some states mandate funding for school counseling programs, but most of these mandates are funded through local taxes. Increased federal funding for school counselors would be advantageous, especially knowing the impact school counselors have within the community. Some states have received grants for school counselors through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now the Every Student Succeeds Act, but clearly there are not enough funds being allocated for counseling services. Expanding funding for future years would allow our students equal access to a qualified school counselor and better their chances for a bright future.
When funding is available and allocated toward an on-site law enforcement officer, why are some students without a school counselor? What kind of message are we sending our children? What does this say about their trajectory and worth? We have an obligation as a society to provide our students with the tools to succeed and to demonstrate cultural competence in our efforts. It all begins with us, with the change we work to create through our continued grit and resilience.
Blad, E. (2016, December 9). Schools With Police But No School Counselors: A Closer Look. Education Week. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rulesforengagement/2016/12/black_hispanic_students_more_likely_to_attend_schools_with_police_but_no_counselors.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2.
Mitra Ghandeharizadeh, who will graduate in July with a master’s degree in school counseling from the Johns Hopkins School of Education, has been selected as the grand prize essayist in the 2017 ACA Foundation Future School Counselor competition.