Report: New York school psychologists spread thin

Dec 5, 2018

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.

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.

Rural areas seemed to be affected the most by a lack of school psychologists, with some rural district superintendents saying that their districts were "isolated from services."

But some city districts are also affected by a lack of community mental health services. Peter Blake, superintendent of the Rome School District, is quoted in the report as saying "The only real barrier that exists is the lack of community resources available to students/families in need." But Blake praised the resources that are available, saying they "work extremely well with the district and each other to provide what we can for our children and families."

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.