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.
- 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.
- 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!