Louisiana Education Superintendent John White has proposed a change to Bulletin 741 that will change the mandate for secondary schools to provide school counselors at a ratio of 1:450 to a recommendation and eliminate altogether a clause which mandates elementary and middle schools to provide school counselors with available enrichment formula funds.

Such a change in the legislation would give districts the option to staff counselors at a higher ratio of 1:450 or to choose not to provide school counselors at all. I believe such a change would be a tremendous disservice to the students in the state of Louisiana.

I would suggest Bulletin 741 needs to be changed to mandate all elementary, middle and high schools in the state of Louisiana provide school counselors at a ratio of 1:250, which would align with best practices as recommended by the American School Counselor Association and the Louisiana School Counseling Model.

Such a change would ensure students in Louisiana schools have access to a comprehensive school counseling program provided by a certified, trained, professional school counselor.

Students are often affected by factors outside of school and beyond their control, such as parental drug use, parental incarceration, poverty, domestic and neighborhood violence, physical and sexual abuse, hunger and homelessness.

Such trauma unquestionably will affect a child’s behavior and academic achievement, and the school counselor is the only person on the school’s campus on a daily basis who can provide support to students who are trying to navigate these difficult problems and perform academically.

School counselors are able to address these concerns by developing a guidance curriculum based on the specific needs of our students, providing individual and small-group counseling, educating parents and families, supporting teachers and developing relationships with the surrounding community.

Especially in light of the horrific event that just occurred in Connecticut, it is evident that now is a time to provide our children with more access to mental health professionals, and it is completely inappropriate to change legislation that would allow districts to reduce the number of school counselors or eliminate them altogether.

As an elementary school counselor, I have the unique opportunity to help children in need, and it is from this experience that I know how great their needs really are.

It is my plea that BESE reject the changes to Bulletin 741 proposed by Superintendent John White and instead consider the recommendations from the educators who are with the children every day and know their needs the best.

Ashley Castello

elementary school counselor

Baton Rouge