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Austin, TX: Special ed crisis alarm sounded for years: psychologists

May 8, 2021, Spectrum News, Austin, TX: School School psychologists say special education crisis in AISD predates pandemic

Many school psychologists, including some who worked for Austin ISD for decades, say that the district’s special education department has been in crisis since before the pandemic struck and that the district’s backlog of overdue special education evaluations is a result of those ongoing problems. One former speech language pathologist for the district says she and many of her colleagues have been sounding the alarm about the department’s systemic issues for years, which have caused school psychologists to leave the district in droves. Speech language pathologists, or SLPs, are therapists who treat speech and communication disorders. In school settings they are one type of therapist, along with licensed specialists in school psychology, LSSPs, who not only evaluate students for special education needs but also provide therapy services…. “We were understaffed for the number and the severity of students we were now being asked to serve. And it just escalated because, you know, no more money appeared. No more staff appeared," said Bernhard. She says she was working nearly 80 hours a week to keep up with her workload, serving students at more and more campuses. … She and many of her peers tried to sound the alarm to the school board in 2019. “For me it was a matter of emotional and physical health. I was coming home with my concerns and not getting anywhere with trying to resolve them ... I gave up and that kills me, too, because I'm not a quitter," said Bernhard. In January of 2020, she read her resignation letter in front of the trustees. … According to the lawsuit, the district has a ratio of one school psychologist for about every 4,000 students in the district. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of 1-to-500. .... In response, Austin ISD announced at the end of April it is reorganizing and overhauling the entire Special Education department to address the ongoing issues.


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