'You worry about them': Outnumbered school counselors struggle to keep kids safe remotely

'You worry about them': Outnumbered school counselors struggle to keep kids safe remotely

As educators everywhere try to figure out how to do their jobs remotely, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted another problem facing schools across the country: the instability of relying on one counselor, or just a few, to guide hundreds of students through new academic hurdles, prepare them for an uncertain future, and triage their mental health crises. Even as the ratio of students to counselors declines nationally, many states remain well above the 250-to-1 recommended by the American School Counselor Association. And counselors around the country have scrambled to find answers to questions about how to ethically and logistically approach the new virtual reality of their work. In late March, as states rushed to close schools, the ASCA tried to host a pair of webinars to answer those questions. But after 13,000 members registered for the sessions – and quickly crashed the servers – the ASCA stopped offering live webinars, said Jill Cook, a former school counselor who is assistant director with the organization. “Folks all over the country, not just in rural states, they’re just searching for help and support,” Cook said. “School districts have a lot on their plates so (counselors) haven’t really gotten directives about what their role should look like.” A scarcity of counselors, especially in elementary schools, puts students in some regions at particular risk. For example, the Arizona Department of Child Safety has seen the number of calls to its child abuse hotline fall by a quarter since mid-March – a reminder that students in vulnerable situations at home ...
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