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Butte, MT: 'Social/emotional/mental health needs of students' keep increasing

Mar 10, 2019, Montana Standard: 'We're taught to wear many hats': School psychologists struggle to juggle roles during staffing shortage …A school psychologist for Butte School District No. 1 for about five years, Schilling knows what the National Association of School Psychologists knows: that a school psychologist helps break down barriers to students' learning and success; helps implement evidence-based instruction; helps parents make informed decisions about education of their children; and helps youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. And Schilling knows something else about school psychologists: there aren't enough of them. Not in Butte, not in Montana, and not nationwide…. A typical week for Schilling is spent assessing students for potential special education placement at Whittier Elementary School, Hillcrest Elementary School, Butte High School, and the Butte High School Career Center. Schilling explained that he oversees roughly 2,500 students and that his large caseload makes it difficult for him to do much more than special education testing. "Ninety percent of my time is spent testing kids," Schilling said. "It's frustrating because I feel stuck and pigeonholed." Schilling explained that over 10 years ago, a school psychologist's main role was to act as the "special education gatekeeper," conducting assessments through the Child Find section of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This section requires states to have policies and procedures in place to ensure all children with disabilities are identified, located, and evaluated so they can receive the services they need to be successful students. However, in recent years, that role has expanded to include more proactive interventions and data-based decision making, Schilling said. … Rhonda Remsen, president of the Montana Association of School Psychologists, acknowledged that although school psychologists' staple duty is to provide assessment service through special education, the expansion of their roles has been the norm for the profession for many years. "As the social, emotional, and mental health needs of students have continued to increase, it has been important for school psychologists to continue to hone their skills for supporting the needs of students," Remsen said via email. She also elaborated on the shortage of school psychologists nationwide and in Montana. The National Association of School Psychologists stated in a recent research summary that longstanding shortages of school psychologists continue to threaten students' access to needed services….
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