Letter: A baffling suggestion

Editor of the Reformer:

As a parent of two Leland & Gray graduates and an active community member, I am baffled as to why Leland & Gray's principal would recommend eliminating the part-time, onsite school social worker and replacing that position with another school counselor. I am equally baffled as to why the Leland & Gray School Board has not shown more concern over the potential implications for students of such a change.

While there is some overlap in the training and functions of a school social worker and a school counselors, it is important to note that school counselors lack the training to be able to provide therapeutic support and interventions when necessary. Given the range of difficult situations that high school students face, including the repercussions of the growing opioid crisis, it strikes me as imprudent and short-sighted to remove the only person on-campus trained to provide therapeutic support who knows students well and interacts with them regularly.

The principal is proposing contracting with a community-based mental health professional to come to the school to provide therapeutic support when necessary. I think this model would be flawed for three reasons. First, it is much more difficult for students to open up to someone whom they do not know. Trust is built through regular interaction, not a singular or even occasional encounter.

Secondly, having someone come in from the outside feels more like an intervention rather than this kind of support being a normalized part of school culture.

Thirdly, someone who is based off-campus cannot be available in the same way during an emergency. I witnessed this first-hand when my children were attending Leland & Gray when a student committed suicide. Students flocked to the school social worker and made little use of the mental health professional brought in from the outside.

If you are concerned about this proposal and want to make your voice heard, please consider attending the Leland & Gray School Board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. in the school library. This will most likely be the last opportunity to express our opinions on this matter before the next year's budget is voted on.

Kim Friedman,

South Newfane, Dec. 4


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