Tell Your Assembly Member You Want A Social Worker In Every School
By Rachel L. West
Advocacy & Community Outreach Consultant
Bill A6763 calls for a social worker in every school throughout New York State
Last month Assembly Member Felix Ortiz introduced A6763 in the New York State Assembly. The bill, if passed, would require every School district in New York State to have a licensed social work in each elementary, intermediate, middle, junior high and senior high school. The purpose of the A6763 is to insure that each school has an effective social work program in place to meet the needs of its students.
I learned of this bill from school social worker, Lisa Bundrick, LMSW, who has been working independently to organize New York State social workers around this issue. NASW-NYS has issued a memo on A6763 that includes justification for the bill. They have identified four problems that have emerged from districts cutting back their social work programs:
- The complete elimination of all school social workers with no plan in place for provision of social work services or mental health care in some school districts.
- Shifting responsibilities of the school social workers to school counselors (or other unlicensed school staff); Many schools and districts are laying off school social workers and erroneously shifting their responsibilities and job-tasks to unlicensed staff such as school counselors, administration, and entry-level support staff. This is very concerning, particularly because clinical social workers provide mental health services, which require licensure under New York State Education law. It is reported that school counselors are being asked to perform tasks that are specifically restricted to licensed mental health professionals such as school social workers. Despite such lay-offs, the need for school-based mental health services has continued to grow and be a primary point of access for mental health care provided to children and adolescents. Up to 80% of mental health services provided to children and adolescents occur within a school setting and one in five children and adolescents will experience a significant mental health problem during their school years. It is vitally important that when students seek or require mental health services, they are met by providers who, as licensure seeks to ensure, possess the adequate knowledge and skills to deliver high quality mental health services. Unlicensed staff lacks sufficient skill, knowledge, experience and oversight to provide mental health services. Utilizing unlicensed staff to perform tasks which are restricted to licensed professionals is a detriment to the welfare of New York’s student population and carries with it increased risk of liability to districts, schools and unlicensed staff providing such services. Clearly defined ratios would address this issue; protecting the welfare of the public while simultaneously improving the way districts address truancy, student drop out and promote academic success.
- Increasing the remaining school social workers student caseloads to alarming levels; While NYS has a robust workforce of school social workers, their distribution tends to be clustered in school districts with greater resources, and scarcer in many of the State’s rural counties. Alarmingly, NASW-NYS has received reports of school social workers operating with a student caseload of over a thousand, and in some cases, over two-thousand, far exceeding national standards for school social work services which recommends a ratio of one school social worker to each school building serving up to 250 general education students, or a ratio of 1:250 students.
- Contracting with private nonprofit community-based organizations to provide school social work services; Many district’s Board of Education have eliminated school social work positions and have contracted with the private sector to provide these services. This is gravely concerning because such contracts are outside the authority of the respective Boards and are contrary to the intention of creating school-based social work certification, and including school social workers as fully integrated teaching professionals.
You can read the entire memo here. The NASW-NYS has also put together a letter template that you can use to write in support of A6763. They ask that you fax a copy of the letter to the bill’s sponsor Assembly Member Felix Ortiz at 518-455-3828. You can find a copy of the template below or on the NASW-NYS website. If you are interested in working to pass A6763 email Lisa Bundrick.