To improve school safety, Californians overwhelmingly believe that having guidance counselors in every school would be more effective than deploying armed police officers.
Two-thirds of those surveyed said they would choose putting a counselor in every school over having an armed police officer there. The mid-January survey, released Thursday, was commissioned by The California Endowment, a nonprofit health foundation.
The findings echo the results of a survey conducted last spring by EdSource on improving school discipline. In that survey of 315 school districts with enrollments of more than 4 million students, two-thirds of the school officials in charge of discipline said that the greatest need was for counselors and other support staff to address discipline problems.Even gun owners thought counselors were more important, 58% to 36%.
As I look at the aftermath of recent school violence, to me it seems essential that we keep our heads, and that any changes we make are in response to real needs at the particular local school - that schools nationwide aren't all forced or expected to implement solutions to a problem/solution formulated in a very different school thousands of miles away.
My first priority is for changes that meet needs that exist on a day to day basis in the school, and for changes that benefit the school in its daily educational mission. For example, on our school campus, the phone system is probably 40 years old and is already inadequate to connect parents to teachers and to connect teachers to the office. Sandy Hook showed how valuable a good phone system is in an emergency. This was already on the to-do list for our district, and if safety-related money is available, it's one of the places I'd like to see it spent.
Not obvious, and probably not a need for many urban schools. But here, it's what we need.
I would love to have more counselor time. We've recently added more counselor time to the high school - spending money on that dreaded administration instead of the classroom! - and I think it's a positive change. I would love to have significant counseling services available daily to the elementary grades and the junior high students. Anti-bullying initiatives have been a priority for many years, to ensure that the school environment is a safe, positive place to be, a place where the kids want to be every day. Counselors are the people who can build those programs best and who can deal with specific group dynamics - when for example the kids in a specific classroom are not getting along with each other.
With Prop 30 passing in California, and the improved economy and budget situation, I'm optimistic that we can start adding back some of these services that were hacked out of schools during the recession. It's good to see that the voters are excited about it too.