September 4, 2019

More Than Two Hundred E4E-Boston Supporters Call for Passage of Student Mental Health Bill

September 4 (Boston) — Educators for Excellence-Boston (E4E-Boston), a teacher-led organization, presented letters and testimony from more than 200 educators in support of “An Act Promoting Trauma-Informed Supports in Schools" (H.577), which would establish standardized student-to-school counselor ratios and require all schools to report on their mental health plans.

With the hearing scheduled during the school day of teachers’ first week back at work, only a small number of educators were able to attend. Those who were able to testify shared frustration and images of teachers who wanted to comment but could not leave their students.

"I wish that this important conversation was not taking place during the school day,” said E4E-Boston member Bobby Jenkins, a reading assistant for third-grade at Pauline Shaw Elementary School in Dorchester. “I have spent most of my education and career in schools with a dire need for social-emotional support and counselors. I know how important this issue is, so I did everything I could to make sure I am here today sharing the truth that students recovering from trauma need access to school counselors so they can begin to heal. I ask that Massachusetts demonstrate its commitment to supporting student mental health by passing this legislation.”

“Over the past two years our educators have been clear: they cannot play the role of teacher, social worker, psychologist and counselor simultaneously for all of their students,” said Raina Aronowitz, Interim Executive Director of E4E-Boston. “Today we speak on behalf of the hundreds of educators who passionately support this legislation, but could not take time away from the first days of a new school year to be here. I am disappointed that today’s hearing could not be held at a time that would have allowed for real input from the educators who are on the front line of this issue every day, but am glad we were able to collect testimony and letters from so many of them. I urge the Joint Education Committee to honor their voices by passing this common-sense legislation out of committee.”

While experts recommend one counselor for every 250 students, Massachusetts has an average of one counselor for every 423 students, according to the most recent report by the American School Counselor Association. In 2017, E4E-Boston members recommended hiring more mental health workers in Schools that Heal, their teacher-authored policy paper dedicated to improving student mental health. Current state law requires every district to have a mental health plan, but a recent educator survey conducted by E4E-Boston indicated 69% of respondents in the Greater Boston Area had never seen their district’s plan.

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