UTAH ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS

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  • 13 Apr 2020 1:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For your information, UEA has recently published a summary of the 2020 Utah legislative session. Among other things, legislation regarding the following areas were passed :

    • An increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU)
    • Funding for student enrollment growth
    • OEK Expansion
    • Funding for use of mental health screening tools
    For the full report, see the 2020 UEA Legislative Summary document, or visit the UEA Under the Dome website.


  • 11 Mar 2020 2:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Educator Day On The Hill was an unforgettable experience.

    As a school psychologist, I was unsure if my voice or my concerns would be important to lawmakers. I was pleasantly surprised when I was instantly included with a lovely group of seasoned veterans on the hill. Can you say instant friends!? These were teachers, principals, counselors, and school psychologist who came to the capitol. So many passionate educators from all over Utah that annually attend so that their voices can be heard and to educate themselves on the very laws that impact our schools.

    I learned the in's and out's of how bills are passed and discovered it's a complex process. But as school psychologist don't we love complex processes and data?

    I also learned how to read law and most of the time understand it!

    Beyond that, I was able to experience visibility by senators . In fact we had one senator who came to eat lunch with a table of school psychologists and listen to our concerns.

    What I ultimately learned as a newbie at the capitol is that there are power in numbers and our representatives value what we have to say. 

    - Marsha Oberle M.A., Ed.S

  • 25 Jul 2019 10:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    WARNING: This blog post is longer than most, it details the experience of a UASP board member interacting with state representatives. If it gets too boring, I encourage you to scroll to the bottom for the TL,DR (“Too Long, Didn’t Read”) summary.


    My name is Sterling Stauffer. In my role as a member of the legislative committee of the Utah Association of School Psychologists, one of my responsibilities is to work with legislators to advocate for the profession of school psychology, and the rights and welfare of children and youth. Over the past year, I’ve called, texted, emailed, and “Resist.bot’d” legislators mostly at the federal level, but also at the state level. I’ve done this largely in response to proposed legislation, or to express my thoughts on current events and indicate my opinion on a certain course of action. In general, I’ve received (what I suspect are) pre-written responses through email thanking me for contacting my representatives with links to their website so I can see their positions and encouragement for me to continue to contact them as issues arise. In a way it felt good to know that I had done something, but at the same time I wondered if any of my efforts really mattered. Two months ago, that all changed.

    At the recommendation of another UASP board member, I decided to reach out to my local state representatives and request a meeting to discuss my concerns regarding the shortage of school-based mental health providers in Utah (the most recent data I have indicates 1 school psychologist for every 2,300 students) and share some ideas about possible solutions. I’ll admit that I honestly didn’t know who my state representatives were, so I went to the Utah State Legislative Maps website to find out. With my street address, zip code, and about 5 seconds of effort, I was able to find the legislators that represent me and their email and phone number. I decided to contact my state representative first (I really don’t know why, that’s just what I did).

    I’m more of an email kind of guy, so I opened up my email and got to work. Because I’ve recently written about sample scripts for writing to legislators on the UASP blog, I had a pretty good place to start from. After introducing myself, my email looked something like this:

    I'm writing to you because there is a critical shortage of school psychologists and school-based mental health professionals in Utah. The recommendation in our profession is a ratio of no more than 700 students per school psychologist. The most recent data available, however, indicates that there are nearly 2,300 students for every school psychologist in Utah - over 3x the recommended level.

    I'm concerned for the students in our district, but also for students across the state, especially with the opioid crisis, and high rates of suicide.

    I believe we need to attract and retain more school-based mental health professionals like school psychologists in Utah, and I have some ideas about what could be done to help.

    I would love to meet with you if even briefly, to discuss my concerns for students in Utah and see what I and other concerned school psychologists can do to help support legislation or efforts to increase our state's ability to attract and retain important mental health providers in schools.

    I was very happy to see that legislation was passed recently to help provide funds to districts to support student mental health, and I hope that these kinds of efforts will continue. 

    Thank you in advance for your time and interest. Please email or call me to let me know what time will work best for you.

    And then I clicked “Send.” 

    In less than 24 hours, I received an email that was clearly not pre-written, with information about when he was available, and an invitation for us to meet in person and discuss my concerns.

    We ended up talking for about 45 minutes on a Tuesday afternoon in his office (turns out he is a software developer) on a variety of topics from the difference between school counselors and school psychologists to how we could address shortages in school psychologists in the state. Though he has family in education, he admitted that he had no idea that school psychologists existed, or that it was any different from a school counselor. 

    In the end, he thanked me for bringing the issues to his awareness, and indicated that he would do his best to advocate for us where possible. He also gave me his cell phone number and encouraged me to text him if I knew of upcoming bills that would support our profession and the students we serve. He also mentioned that I should really meet with another legislator who lives in our county, but who is not my representative. He said he would contact this legislator and recommend that he meet with me.

    I was hoping for more, but it was a good first step, and I was excited to see how the next meeting would go.

    So I emailed the recommended legislator, and within a couple of hours, I received a phone call from him to setup a time to meet. He said that he was glad that I had reached out, as student mental health and education had been on his mind recently, and he was eager to hear my thoughts on how to better support students.

    When I met him at his office, it was a little intimidating. He’s an attorney, and his office was . . . significantly better than mine. But the meeting went incredibly well. He was very personable, and asked me my thoughts on some very relevant issues. He also was not aware of a difference between school counselors and school psychologists, and was surprised to find that the school district had “in house” mental health specialists rather than just contracted from the local mental health agency.

    I presented some ideas for legislative supports to help attract and retain good school psychologists in Utah. In particular, he wanted to make sure that school psychology students were eligible for the T.H. Bell, and look into getting school psychologists added to the Teacher Supplemental Salary Program.

    Who knows what will come of these meetings. While they were very positive, I also know that there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to legislation. Regardless of what happens, I feel very satisfied about my efforts, and I encourage all school psychologists across the state to engage with your local legislators about important issues. If your experience is anything like mine, they will be happy to discuss your concerns and you will leave with a sense of satisfaction.


    TL,DR - I met with two state representatives. They didn’t know that school psychologists existed or that they were any different from school counselors. They both asked good questions and promoted engaging conversation about how they can help support us as a profession, and more importantly student mental health needs. I am currently working with one representative on legislation to help attract and retain more qualified school psychologists in Utah. I think everyone should personally introduce themselves to their local legislators and start a conversation about how we better support Utah students.



  • 22 Mar 2019 12:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    HB 373 Student Supports Amendment was originally part of HB 120 School Safety. During the legislative process the areas regarding funding for school mental health professionals was pulled from 120 and so became HB 373! UASP is very grateful to Representative Eliason and Senator Millner for sponsoring this bill. We recommend you take a look at the entire language here https://le.utah.gov/~2019/bills/static/HB0373.html

    But here are the pertinent highlights in regards to school psychologists: 

    ...authorizes the State Board of Education (board) to distribute money to local
    22     education agencies (LEAs) for personnel who provide school-based mental health
    23     support;
    24          ▸     requires the board to establish a formula for distribution of money to LEAs;
    25          ▸     enacts requirements on LEAs to receive money;
    26          ▸     requires the board to make rules related to money for the personnel;


    ....53F-2-415. Student health and counseling support -- Qualifying personnel --
    176     Distribution formula -- Rulemaking.
    177          (1) As used in this section, "qualifying personnel" means a school counselor or other
    178     counselor, school psychologist or other psychologist, school social worker or other social
    179     worker, or school nurse who:
    180          (a) is licensed; and
    181          (b) collaborates with educators and a student's parent on:
    182          (i) early identification and intervention of the student's academic and mental health
    183     needs; and
    184          (ii) removing barriers to learning and developing skills and behaviors critical for the
    185     student's academic achievement.
    186          (2) (a) Subject to legislative appropriations, and in accordance with Subsection (2)(b),
    187     the state board shall distribute money appropriated under this section to LEAs to provide in a
    188     school targeted school-based mental health support, including clinical services and
    189     trauma-informed care, through employing or entering into contracts for services provided by

    190     qualifying personnel.

    Details about how LEA's will apply for money to support staffing of counselors,psychologists, social workers, or nurses has not been delineated yet. 

    UASP worked in tangent with the state association of school nurses and school counselors to ensure the language included all professionals that support mental health rather than just one group.

  • 21 Mar 2019 1:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Our friends at the UEA provided us and their members with a summary of bills relevant to educators and students in Utah:

    Bill

    Description

    Result (Yea-Nay)

    HB71: Health Education Amendments
    (R. Ward)

    Clarifies instruction in health education classes regarding contraception.

    Passed the House 72-0
    and the Senate 27-0

    HB118: Incentives for Statewide Assessment Performance (M. Winder)

    Allows teachers to use statewide standardized tests to improve a student’s academic grade.

    Passed the House 58-14
    and the Senate 
    16-9

    HB120: Student and School Safety Assessment
    (R. Ward)

    Directs USBE to develop model policies and procedures for threat assessment and creates a ‘school safety center’ to coordinate training.

    Passed the House 45-27
    and the Senate 28-0

    HB130: Public Education Exit Survey
    (C. Moss)

    Directs the Utah State Board of Education to create standards for an educator “exit survey” when a teacher leaves employment.

    Passed the House 48-24and the Senate 24-3

    HB133: Initiative Amendments

    (B. Daw)

    Delays the implementation of successful ballot initiatives by one year to give the legislature time to consider and make changes.

    Passed the House 50-20and the Senate 22-5

    HB168: School Bus Safety Requirements

    (C. Hall)

    Requires new school buses to have three-point seat belts after 2020.

    Failed in the House 23-50

    HB188: T.H. Bell Program Amendments

    (L. Snow)

    Changes the T.H. Bell Program for education students from a loan forgiveness program to a scholarship program.

    Passed the House 72-0 and the Senate 22-4

    HB198: Education Accountability Amendments

    (M. Poulson)

    Removes the requirement for the State Board of Education to use a single letter grade when assigning a school an overall rating.

    Passed the House 68-2 but not heard in the Senate

    HB236: Teacher Salary Supplement Amendments

    (K. Christofferson)

    Allows teachers who have taught 10 years in an approved subject to receive a salary supplement.

    Passed the House 67-0 and the Senate 23-0

    HB250: School Fee Revisions

    (K. Lisonbee)

    Requires the State Board of Education to report recommendations on activity-based fees.

    Passed the House 66-0

    and the Senate 25-0

    HB273: School Fees Modifications

    (A. Robertson)

    Would prohibit the charging of curricular fees in schools. Did not include funding to offset fund losses to school districts.

    Held in House committee

    HB373: Student Support Amendments

    (S. Eliason)

    Provides matching grant funds to hire school counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses.

    Passed the House 62-6 and the Senate 27-0

    HB441: Tax Equalization and Reduction Act

    (T. Quinn)

    Lowers the state sales tax rate and adds new taxes on services, reduces the income tax rate from 4.95% to 4.75%.

    Passed House committee but not heard in the House

    HB495: Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force

    (M. Schultz)

    Creates a task force to make recommendations for addressing revenue structural imbalances and to solicit public feedback and involvement.

    Passed the Senate 

  • 27 Feb 2019 11:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Utah House Bill 373, among other things, requests appropriations to provide money for school districts seeking to hire school-based mental health support professionals such as school psychologists.

    If you need to know who represents you at a state level, go to https://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp for contact information. In interacting with your legislators, consider using the following as a starting point:


    Dear [Senator, Representative] [INSERT LEGISLATOR’S LAST NAME],

    As a constituent and a school psychologist, I respectfully request that you fully support House Bill 373 or its senate equivalent, which provides money to school districts to increase student access to school-based mental health providers like school psychologists. Preventing and addressing student mental health issues is critical to student success. We have school-based mental health professionals currently employed to address these issues, but there are far too few of us throughout the state.

    In the state of Utah, we have between 2,500 to 3,000 students for every school psychologist. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends that no more than a ratio of 1 school psychologist to 700 students is needed to be able to provide comprehensive supports that include prevention and intervention of mental health issues, school crises, youth suicide, academic difficulty and more.

    Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or if you see any way for school psychologists like myself to further support legislation that increases access to school-based mental health providers.

    Thank you for your service to our state and your consideration of this issue.

    Sincerely,

    [INSERT YOUR NAME AND TITLE]

    [INSERT YOUR FULL ADDRESS]

    [INSERT EMAIL AND/OR PHONE NUMBER]


  • 27 Feb 2019 11:11 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When contacting legislators, it can be hard getting started with what you want to say. Today we're providing school psychologists with some outlines for you to use with your own advocacy work. Remember, you don't have to be eloquent. Be sincere and consistent in contacting your legislators. There aren't many of us in Utah, so we need to be sure and speak up so that we can appropriately meet the needs of students.

    Ok, so here's an outline you can use to write up something for your representative or senator:


    Dear [Senator, Representative] [INSERT LEGISLATOR’S LAST NAME],

    As a constituent and a school psychologist, [INSERT PRIMARY ASK HERE].

    [EXPLAIN YOUR EXPERIENCE, REASONING, OR RESEARCH BEHIND THE PRIMARY ASK, USE BULLET POINTS IF NECESSARY]

    [IF POSSIBLE, INCLUDE A STORY ABOUT THE LEGISLATOR’S DISTRICT TO HELP THEM UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF WHAT YOU’RE ASKING]

    Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or if you see any way for school psychologists like myself to further support legislation that [SUPPORTS THE PRIMARY ASK].

    Thank you for your service to our state and your consideration of this issue.

    Sincerely,

    [INSERT YOUR NAME AND TITLE]

    [INSERT YOUR FULL ADDRESS]

    [INSERT EMAIL AND/OR PHONE NUMBER]


    As an example, here's what you might write if you just wanted to contact your legislators and ask for their support for increasing access of students to school-based mental health providers like school psychologists:


    Dear [Senator, Representative] [INSERT LEGISLATOR’S LAST NAME],

    As a constituent and a school psychologist, I respectfully request that you support efforts to increase access to school-based mental health providers like school psychologists. Preventing and addressing student mental health issues is critical to student success. We have school-based mental health professionals currently employed to address these issues, but there are far too few of us throughout the state.

    In the state of Utah, we have between 2,500 to 3,000 students for every school psychologist. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends that no more than a ratio of 1 school psychologist to 700 students is needed to be able to provide comprehensive supports that include prevention and intervention of mental health issues, school crises, youth suicide, academic difficulty and more.

    [IF POSSIBLE, INCLUDE A STORY ABOUT THE LEGISLATOR’S DISTRICT TO HELP THEM UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF WHAT YOU’RE ASKING]

    Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or if you see any way for school psychologists like myself to further support legislation that increases access to school-based mental health providers.

    Thank you for your service to our state and your consideration of this issue.

    Sincerely,

    [INSERT YOUR NAME AND TITLE]

    [INSERT YOUR FULL ADDRESS]

    [INSERT EMAIL AND/OR PHONE NUMBER]



    As always, if you have any questions about contacting legislators or how you can be more involved in advocating for students and school psychologists, contact the board!

    If you need to know who represents you in congress at the sate level, go to https://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp

    If you need to know who represents you in congress at the federal level, check out https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members

    You can also check out NASP's Advocacy Center that makes it very easy to contact your federal legislators on a variety of current topics.


  • 04 Feb 2019 9:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    In considering ways to improve school safety, educators will want to be aware of relational aggression in schools and its impact on students. Check out this educators overview on relational aggression!
  • 30 Nov 2018 4:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jason Basinger, UASP Board Member and Legislative Committee Co-chair presented information about school psychologists as advocates at the 2018 fall conference.

    For presentation slides, click here!

  • 21 Oct 2018 1:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    NASP has recently created a number of Key Advocacy Messages that school psychologists, educators, parents, or other concerned individuals can use to communicate with legislators and other important stakeholders. If you're looking for a starting point for communicating a clear problem with ideas for how to solve them, look no further. Here are just two key messages that you might use:

    1. Create School Environments That are Safe, Supportive and Conducive to Learning.

    Students who do not feel safe and supported at school, both physically and psychologically, cannot learn to their fullest potential. Supportive school environments employ effective discipline strategies that help to: (1) reduce school violence, (2) prevent bullying and harassment, and (3) improve school climate. We can enable teachers’ ability to teach and students’ ability to learn when we ensure that all students: (a) come to school feeling safe, welcomed, and respected; (b) have a trusting relationship with at least one adult in the school; (c) understand clear academic and behavioral expectations; and (d) see their role as positive members of the school community.

    The Problem

    • Witnessing or experiencing school violence diminishes student engagement and leads to increased risk of truancy (unexcused absences) and school avoidance.
    • Exclusionary discipline practices (ex. out-of-school suspensions) do not improve school safety and are often administered unfairly, and at disproportionate rates for certain populations, which fuels bad outcomes for students in the classroom and throughout life. Data shows that:
      • Black students are more than 3x as likely to be suspended than white students
      • Students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be suspended than their nondisabled peers
      • Racial minority students with disabilities are more likely to be suspended than white students with disabilities
    • Involvement in bullying creates barriers to learning and is associated with increased risk of substance abuse, mental health problems, and decreased academic performance.  Research indicates:
      • Approximately 1 in 4 students experiences bullying during the school year.
      • 74.1% of LBGT students were verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation; 55.2% because of their gender expression.
      • Students with disabilities are 2-3x more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled peers.
    • Increased gun access and gun possession are associated with heightened violence, thereby suggesting that increasing the presence of guns in schools is likely to have harmful effects on students.

    Actions to Address the Problem

    • Support legislation, policy, and funding streams that promote sustainable crisis prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery
    • Reject proposals that seek to allow anyone other than a commissioned School Resource Officer to be armed on a school campus
    • Support efforts to promote positive and effective discipline strategies that seek to address and correct inappropriate behaviors (e.g., PBIS, restorative practices)
    • Support legislation that increases access to school-based mental health supports, implements an integrated multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) model, integrates school safety and crisis preparedness efforts in schools, balances physical safety with psychological safety.

    2. Improve Access to Comprehensive School Mental Health Services and School Employed-Employed Mental Health Professionals

    Comprehensive and coordinated learning and mental health services directly contribute to more positive student outcomes and increased academic achievement. School psychologists and other school-employed mental health professionals have unique training that allows them to deliver these services within the context of learning, and in support of the mission of schools.  These professionals can provide critical early identification and intervention services to help students build the skills they need to meet the academic and social demands of school and life.

    The Problem

    • 1 in 5 children and youth will experience a mental health disorder.
    • Approximately 80% of students who need mental health care do not receive it. Of those who do, the majority access care in schools. Students are more likely to ask for help if services are available at school.
    • Personnel shortages of school-employed mental health professionals result in critically unmet needs for students across the country, especially in rural and low-income areas.
    • Children living in low income households are at greater risk for Adverse Childhood Experience, which are associated with increased risk of mental health problems and decreased academic achievement.

     Actions to Address the Problem

    • Support legislation that makes a long-term and sustained commitment to align staffing ratios with recommendations generated from national professional organizations to allow for the delivery of a full range of mental health services.
      • The recommended ratio of students to school counselor is 250:1;
      • The recommended ratio for school psychologists is 500-700:1
      • The recommended ratio for school social workers is 250:1.
    • Support policies that promote effective collaboration between school-employed and community mental health professionals.
    • Establish school community mental health partnerships that supplement, not replace, existing school based services and foster collaboration between school and community mental health professionals.

    For more NASP resources to help with your advocacy, check out their Communication Strategies and Resources page at nasponline.org

    And as always, if you have any questions about how you can get involved in advocating for students, please contact a member of the UASP Board!


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