NC school psychologist shortage leaves many students without mental health resources

Jamie Howell
Staff Writer

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PC: The People Speak/Flickr

The number of school psychologists in U.S. public schools is considerably lower than the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) recommends.

According to an article written by Professor Mark Phillips of San Francisco State University, the number of school psychologists per student varies widely between states, but the overall ratio was 457 students to every one psychologist as of 2016.

“Most schools have more than a handful of kids wrestling with significant emotional problems, and schools at all levels face an ongoing challenge related to school violence and bullying, both physical and emotional,” said Phillips.

The ratio in North Carolina is far more disproportionate than the national average. According to NC Policy Watch, there are 2,162 students to every one of North Carolina’s 740 school psychologists. NC Policy Watch states that there are currently 65 vacancies for school psychologists in North Carolina.

NASP stated the importance of school psychologists by calling them “uniquely qualified members of school teams that support students’ ability to learn and teachers’ ability to teach.”

According to NC Policy Watch, it is difficult to recruit school psychologists because the pay in so low but the licensing requirements are higher than most other jobs. North Carolina only spends 23.4 percent of its expenditures on k-12 education compared to Vermont where they spend 31 percent of their total expenditures on k-12 education according to Ballotpedia. North Carolina is ranked number 43rd on per pupil spending in the U.S.

Phillips says that even the states with the best funding still have too few school psychologists per student. A Washington Post article explained that North Carolina  would have to spend at least an extra $79 million a year to meet the minimum need for school psychologists.

Nationwide, there was a shortage of 9,000 school psychologists in 2010 and it is predicted to increase to 15,000 by 2020. According to Mental Health America, only one in five students who need psychological help receive it.

Phillips’ study has seen a steady rise in suicide rates. School psychologists are a necessary factor in lowering those numbers.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suicide rate has risen by 24 percent in the last 15 years. The CDC states that suicide was the number two cause of death in the U.S. in 2016 for people ages 10-34.

The 740 school psychologists who currently work in North Carolina public schools have been very effective in improving the mental health of the students that they have been able to reach but with growing classrooms, it is nearly impossible to have contact with every student.

Categories: News, North Carolina

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