Letter: Keep the social worker at L&G

Editor of the Reformer:

I am writing out of concern that the administration of Leland and Gray Middle and High School has proposed a budget for the 2018/2019 school year that eliminates the position of social worker. This is only a .6 full-time equivalent position. The budget adds a .75 FTE counseling position and 1.0 FTE Dean of Academics.

Eliminating the social worker position is therefore not a budgetary move, but a change in the way mental health services are delivered to the Leland and Gray students. To eliminate the social work position in the current culture our students live in is a potentially catastrophic error. A recent Columbia University study documents a surge in depression among teens, citing figures that show mental illness rates are rising four times faster in young people than anyone else in the country. The study suggests several reasons for this surge- risk factors derived from the use of new technologies and life stressors, such as poverty. The clinical services of a licensed social worker, even a .6 FTE, are critical to the mental health or our students and their academic progress.

Several of the Leland and Gray teachers have already appeared at board meetings, advocating for the retention of the position. They have stated that when serious mental health issues are raised by students in their classes, they are grateful to have a clinically trained professional in the building to address the concerns and collaborate with them and the counselors to assess and obtain appropriate help. The appropriate help in these crises is the clinically trained indigenous school social worker.

At present, clinicians from community mental health agencies are brought in to assess and consult. This creates inequities in practice, since the families of the students in crisis are then required to bill their insurance programs to pay for the service. Some families may not have the requisite insurance, or may not want the issues known outside the school itself. A social worker on the staff of the school is familiar with the school culture, school personal and through assuming school roles and duties, is an ongoing part of school routine and culture. Frequently, students in crisis are hesitant or scared to ask for appropriate help, but will approach trusted school personal, and thus avert serious consequences.

As a middle school worker for over 20 years, I strongly urge the community to prevent this unnecessary and potentially harmful cut. Come to Leland and Gray Board meeting on Dec. 12 to ask the essential school service be retained for the health and safety of our students, not to mention their continued academic progress.

Lyndall Boal

Brookline, Nov. 27


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