Some schools in New York state are struggling to find enough school psychologists, according to a report from the New York State School Boards Association. But even in districts that meet the minimum federal guidelines, administrators want more psychologists on staff.
The Penfield Central School District’s ratio of 603 students per psychologists fits well within the recommendations from the National Association of School Psychologists. Even so, Superintendent Thomas Putnam said he wants more.
Putnam is quoted in the report, released Tuesday, saying that the time psychologists need to spend on administrative tasks for students with special needs takes away from their ability to address the “social-emotional needs of all students.” WXXI News reached out to Putnam and the district but didn’t hear back.
Those sentiments are common across the state. School administrators quoted in the report said their psychologists were finding themselves mired in administrative tasks like scheduling meetings to set up individualized education plans for students with special needs.
A superintendent in Broome County said his district had enough school psychologist positions to meet basic requirements, but with an increase in special education students, psychologists there were spread thin.
Two-thirds of school psychologists surveyed by the state school boards association said their district did not have enough psychologists to meet students’ needs, according to the report.
The report comes at a crucial time for youth mental health across the country. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, and opioid-related visits to doctors by school-age children in New York have more than doubled since 2010, the association said.
The report did make some recommendations for local districts, including partnering with community organizations that focus on mental health, increasing the visibility of their job openings and focusing recruitment efforts in minority populations. “Only 13 percent of school psychologists identified as racial and/or ethnic minorities,” and 14 percent reported fluency in a language other than English, the report said.