Disagree on Mental Health Resources in NYC Schools

There is little left for it to start the new school year in the Big Apple, and while more than 900,000 students and teachers prepare to return to the classroom, the City’s public schools will not start off with high marks for education-related support and resources. mental health of his students.

This was revealed in a report presented by the Office of the State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, after a four-year audit with information from this 2022, where it was determined that New York public schools are failing to provide enough mental health programs and resources, and do not offer adequate services.

The audit found with concern that although 1,101 of 1,524 public schools of the city have at least one social worker, 80% of them do not meet the recommended proportion.

At the same time, the investigations noted that 423 public schools do not have any social workers and despite the fact that 1,422 of 1,524 campuses had at least one school counselor, 910 of them, or 64%, also did not meet the recommended school counselor-to-student ratio of 1,250.

The report further mentioned that due to the shortage of professional staff in mental healthawareness training on this subject is not being given as it should be, since attendance at these training sessions, which is not mandatory, was low.

“While the DOE (Department of Education) has shown a willingness to address these issues, many of New York’s school-age children are still facing a mental health emergency and schools are not equipped to provide them with the support they need,” Comptroller DiNapoli said.

The audit discovered in passing that the DOE lied to parents, because despite assuring on its website that schools had six mental health programs and that they could ask about it in schools, “that statement was false.” The auditors found that nearly 40%, or 563 of the DOE’s 1,524 schools, did not even have a structured mental health program or curriculum in violation of state standards.

“State law requires that mental health instruction be part of health education in schools. However, the auditors found that the DOE does not take any steps to ensure that schools have included a mental health component in their curriculum and provide mental health instruction to students, nor does it monitor whether school programs meet the minimum requirements nor does it assess their effectiveness,” the report stated, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the worsening mental health crisis among New York youth.

Following the findings, the State Comptroller urged the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to “increase efforts to improve oversight of public school mental health curriculum and equip school staff with the resources they they need to support the emotional well-being of students.”

“Now is the time to double down on mental health supports for youth – schools are critical partners in this work and it is imperative that they step up efforts to emotionally support students,” they added.

Parents like Lucero Socorrowho has two teenage children in a school in the South Bronx, said she suffers from these shortcomings with her children.

“My children after the pandemic have suffered from a lot of stress and they get upset about everything. Even one of them, the 14-year-old girl, told me that she wanted to commit suicide, and at school there is not enough support and they told me to call 311 and they gave me helpline numbers, but nothing, “said the mother. Mexican.

Leonie Hamsonexecutive director of the Class Size Matters organization, which watches over the defense of students, assured that the report’s data would most likely fall short and expressed concern that the panorama is more serious than what is shown in the figures, due to to cuts in the municipal education budget.

“The Comptroller’s audit pointed to a shortage of school counselors and social workers in our schools, but the shortage is likely to be even worse next year, as many have already been laid off due to huge budget cuts imposed by the mayor.” Hamson said.

“This will undoubtedly cause even more stress on our immigrant students, and especially the new influx of immigrant students in Districts 2, 3, 10, 14, 24 and 30, whose schools will enroll the majority of these students according to the DOE.” .

After hearing the Comptroller’s complaints, the Department of Education denied them and said city schools offer counselors for all of their students.

The data presented in the audit of the comptroller’s office is outdated. Currently, all New York City public school students have access to a school counselor, social worker, or mental health clinic,” a DOE spokesperson said.

The Department of Education added that they are committed to supporting students and school communities in difficult times, and that their work is unwavering.

“It is our ongoing priority to provide the critical resources needed to ensure every school has access to a mental health professional, like a school social worker or school counselor, who meets students where they are with the support they need, when they need it. they need them,” they added, contradicting the Comptroller’s findings.

The Education deparment It argues that the school system has approximately 5,000 social workers and guidance counselors, a number they say has increased by 1,000 positions since 2014.

They also stated that Big Apple schools maintain a ratio of 1,183 students per counselor/social worker, which “is even better” than the ratio of 1,250 recommended by the American Association of School Counselors. But this too was not supported by the audit.

The DOE admitted that there are only 56 schools without a social workerbut insisted that students in these schools have access to other mental health support programs, such as school-based mental health clinics and community organizations.

Comptroller’s Audit Findings

  • 1,101 of 1,524 public schools have at least one social worker
  • 80% of those schools do not meet the recommended ratio of social worker to student.
  • 423 public schools do not have any social workers
  • 1,422 of 1,524 public schools had at least one school counselor
  • 910, or 64% of those schools, did not meet the recommended school counselor-to-student ratio of 1,250
  • Due to a shortage of professional staff, mental health awareness training for all staff is not taking place
  • Principals, teachers, and paraprofessionals are not required to receive mental health awareness training, but the DOE does offer staff training
  • Attendance at these training sessions was low in the audit schools
  • Issues discovered with the DOE’s delivery and oversight of mental health programs
  • The DOE website listed six mental health programs, but that claim was false.
  • Almost 40%, that is, 563 of the 1,524 DOE schools did not even have a structured mental health program
  • The DOE was unable to readily provide information on these other programs in the audit.

Comptroller’s Recommendations to DOE

  • Monitor schools’ curriculum to ensure they meet the requirements of state education law
  • Require schools to ensure that all staff who have daily interactions with students attend mental health awareness training
  • Explore ways to maintain appropriate levels of mental health professional staffing in all schools
  • Explore ways to collect, document, and analyze information related to mental health
  • Promote knowledge sharing between schools, including their solutions for remote mental health monitoring
  • Improving staff attendance at mental health trainings, and offering them to non-educational staff, could also benefit students