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As COVID-19 raises new mental health concerns, NC School Psychologist Association holds virtual legislative day

On Monday, May 4, the North Carolina School Psychologist Association (NCSPA) held its second annual legislative day. Due to COVID-19, school psychologists across the state advocated through virtual means — including letters, emails, and video and audio calls with their state legislators, according to a press release.

“The mental health needs of our children, both with and without disabilities, continue to exist and are very likely to be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the NCSPA in a press release. “School Psychologists are experts in handling these complex matters, and they need immediate and concrete proactive measures to ensure this crisis does not hurt our school children and their families any more than it has already.”

School psychologists are asking legislators to support recruitment and retention of school psychologists through things such as salary increases and “hiring a recruitment and retention coordinator at the NC Department of Public Instruction,” according to a press release. They are also asking for licensure flexibility that would allow them to serve students in multiple districts as both contractors and part-time employees, particularly in rural areas. Click here to view the NCSPA’s full 2020 legislative agenda.

According to an infographic released by the NCSPA, 772 school psychologists serve North Carolina’s 1.5 million students — giving the state a psychologist-to-student ratio of 1:1,943, well above the national recommended ratio of 1:500. And, in 2019, there were 22 school districts in the state with no full-time school psychologist on staff. That figure is up from 13 districts in 2018.

“There has been a long-standing urgency to address the (school psychologist) shortages, but the COVID-19 pandemic brings a renewed priority because of the anticipated increased mental health concerns schools are likely to face when students are back in school buildings and with the evaluations for students with disabilities that cannot be completed without face-to-face contact,” said the NCSPA in an emailed statement. “With a national shortage of school psychologists, NC must be competitive enough to attract talented and highly skilled school psychologists from across state lines or from NC university training programs in addition to retaining our school psychologists currently working in NC.”

Courtesy of the NC School Psychologist Association
Courtesy of the NC School Psychologist Association
Courtesy of the NC School Psychologist Association

Many school psychologists participated in the advocacy day by taking to Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #NCSPAadvocates.

Analisa Sorrells

Analisa Sorrells is a Master in Public Policy candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School and previously worked as chief of staff and associate director of policy for EducationNC.