Will We Let the Children Lead Us?

Source: Indiana Capital Chronicle | Repost Fight for Life Foundation 6/3/2024 –

I started my career teaching special education in the 90s. I taught what was then called, self-contained special education. These classes were separate from the rest of the school. They were comprised of children who had been identified as seriously emotionally disturbed via a full psychological evaluation and the implementation of an individualized education plan.

Schools are required to serve students with mental illness under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law protecting the rights of people with disabilities. If we want to truly address the mental health crisis facing our adolescents, the journey must include K-12 students and schools in a comprehensive way.

In 2023, Indiana had four-and-a-half times more students per psychologist than the recommended amount and 11 times more students per social worker. This shortage of mental health providers is particularly dangerous for children, who are especially vulnerable. According to the Hopeful Futures Campaign, Indiana has one school social worker for every 1,829 students when the recommended ratio is 1:250. Indiana has one school psychologist for every 2,607 students when the recommended ratio is 1:500. Indiana has one school counselor for every 497 students when the recommended ratio is 1:250. All Hoosier students must attend school for more than 1500 hours per year and these stark shortages, as well as escalating student mental health data, make a strong argument for schools being the ground zero for the youth mental health crisis.

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