COLUMBUS, Ohio – A bipartisan-sponsored Ohio House bill aims to redirect school counselors toward the original functions of their job – helping kids with social and emotional health, career readiness and academic counseling – at a time when many are proctoring tests, monitoring lunch and filling in as substitute teachers or administrators.
House Bill 367 would require the Ohio Department of Education to create a universal job description for school counselors, based on standards it had previously developed. School districts could choose whether or not to use that job description.
These days, more children come to school suffering from trauma at home. Some have parents who are addicted to opioids. Bullying is worse than in the past. Stress, much of it exasperated by social media, weighs heavily on students. Such factors can, in addition to affecting mental health, make it impossible to learn, said Nichole Miller, president of the Ohio School Counselor Association, which supports the HB 367.
“We’re seeing the numbers of suicides and suicide attempts increasing,” she said. “Elementary students are attempting suicide.”
In Ohio, there are 450 students per school counselor. The professional recommendation is 200 to 250 students per counselor.
The two-year state budget passed over the summer provides $675 million to support mental health counseling, wraparound services, mentoring and after school programs.
“With the spotlight now focused on addressing and caring for the mental health of our students, it is imperative to ensure schools utilize the resources that they already have available by requiring ODE to create an official job description for school counselors,” said Rep. Susan Manchester, an Auglaize County Republican and one of the bill’s sponsors. “We are encouraging a more effective use of the in-house resources and expertise that are already present within our schools.”
Rep. Jessica Miranda, a Cincinnati-area Democrat who is also sponsoring the bill, said they don’t want to require districts to adopt the Ohio Department of Education’s definition. The state has loaded a lot of demands on local districts, and she doesn’t want to overburden them with a new requirement.
“As a former board of education president, we hate the word ‘mandate,’” she said.