- Boerne Independent School District
Boerne ISD Administrator Testifies for Mental Health Awareness
On Thursday, April 11, Boerne ISD’s Executive Director of Student Support Services, Ms. Lesa Pritchard, who is also the current President-Elect of The Texas Association of School Counselors, testified before legislators in Austin in support of Senate Bill 426.
In the interest of increasing school safety, mental health awareness, and mental illness prevention in schools around the state, many are asking about the role of school counselors on campuses and why more counselors are not being utilized for the rich resource that they are with students.
Many are unaware that according to the current Texas Education Code, no specification is made to protect a School Counselor’s time for the purpose of offering counseling services. This fact, coupled with the nature of counseling services being offered on campuses in confidentiality, leads to a common assumption that counselors are the campus staff member with the most availability to absorb other duties. In fact, it is common practice across the state for Districts to rely on their counselors as their state testing coordinators, 504 program coordinators, lunch duty monitors and more. While these positions may sound simple enough, there are several times throughout the year that these tasks consume the majority of counselors’ time. Senate Bill 426, if passed, will cap the amount of non-counseling duties assigned to counselors to 20 percent. Which means that counselors will be free to spend more time working proactively to prevent crises rather than often only being able to address crises reactively as they unfold.
In her testimony, Ms. Pritchard mentions a tiered school counseling model that relies heavily on the Counseling Department and begins with a foundation of Social-emotional education integrated into the campus curriculum. This Social-emotional education would focus on teaching students skills such as how to respect others, accept differences, how to manage their own emotions and the power of optimism in problem-solving and learning. All of these skills are pieces of a proactive approach to mental health and crisis intervention that could in many ways help to prevent crises before they occur. The tiers go on to intervene with students struggling with specific skills through group counseling, targeted teaching, and individual counseling.
This tiered counseling model is something that is new to Boerne ISD and will be implemented beginning next year as Your Choice, Your Future. Boerne ISD supports Senate Bill 426 and is actively working to manage and relieve the non-counseling duties from our counselors so that more campuses can effectively use their mental health experts.
To view Ms. Pritchard’s testimony and to hear more on SB 426 Click here: http://tlcsenate.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=14213