Author: Janet Doss, LCSW, MSCSW Board of Directors Member
With Senate Bill 1 having passed in the Senate and moved onto the House, I would like to bring to the attention of KSCSW members an a concern I have about the bill related to an issue near and dear to my heart. Earlier this month, Senate Bill 1, also known as the School Safety and Resiliency Act, passed the Senate and moved onto the House of Representatives for its consideration. Senate Bill 1 and its companion, House Bill 1, include measures to increase school safety, with a focus on the mental health and security of students.
According to a “Senate Week in Review” distributed by Senator Reginald Thomas (Democrat, 13th District) on February 8, Senate Bill 1 would:
• Establish a state school security marshal to enforce school building security.
• Require schools to have a school safety coordinator who, after receiving training, would train other school personnel on school safety.
• Require every public middle and high school administrator to share suicide prevention awareness information with all students.
• Require suicide prevention training for all personnel who are in direct contact with students.
• Recommend counselors have more involvement with students.
• Set a goal of one school counselor for every 250 students.
I have worked in many areas of social work, including Child Protective Services, Juvenile Court, Community Mental Health, Private Practice and in the school system. Currently I have a private practice and work at the University of Kentucky part time as coordinator for the School Social Work Certification Program. I work with school districts all the time to help them hire school social workers and facilitate social work students completing the school social work certification program at UK.
Although I very much support Senate Bill 1, it includes a section about which I have concerns. The bill includes language requiring at least one school counselor for every 250 students, but that section of the bill specifically states that anyone filling that position must be a certified school counselor.
It only seems reasonable that Senate Bill 1 should be revised to allow certified school social workers to fill those required counselor positions as well, providing school districts and administrators more options when filling those positions. Much like school counselors, school social workers are certified through the educational professional standards board and have training very specific to providing services to students and their families. There are areas of Kentucky that may not always have access to certified school counselors but may have one or more professionals with a school social work certification in their area who would be well qualified for one of these positions.
I have let Senator Thomas know about my concern regarding this section of Senate Bill 1. If you share my concern, I invite you to let your legislators know as well. Here are some links you might find useful in learning more about Senate Bill 1 and communicating your thoughts about it to your legislators.