I am a psychiatric social worker in LAUSD, and people need to know the truth about the struggles some students and families face with regard to mental health.
LAUSD families are under tremendous stress — from the instability of the housing crisis to the pervasive fear of deportation raids and institutional violence. Poverty and oppression have serious consequences for children’s physical and mental health.
However, in the current system, we are bombarded with testing and the expectation that students can simply push through the grief and trauma without the appropriate support. We as educators see firsthand the number of children that access mental health services and the positive effect those services have on attendance, grades, and graduation rates.
Schools have the tremendous opportunity, and responsibility, to be healing spaces for families. Knowing the pressure our students are under, we can either respond with punitive policies or make schools centers for community wellness. PSWs provide mental health services to individuals, groups, and families, as well as classroom interventions, parent workshops, and professional development for school staff.
Every child deserves access to a PSW on their campus, yet many PSWs are spread thin covering multiple schools. While the national recommended ratio for school social workers is 1:250, LAUSD PSWs often have ratios of 1: several thousand. We address clinical issues such as domestic violence and substance abuse, as well as respond to students at risk of harm to themselves or others.
Public school employees deserve working conditions that are healthy and sustainable. Smaller class sizes and caseloads are essential to both educator and student wellbeing. Our students deserve fully funded schools that offer a culturally relevant curriculum, activities, and services to support families’ health and wellbeing.
California is the 5th largest economy in the world and Los Angeles is home to millionaires and billionaires. However, our school district, which is predominantly comprised of students of color from working-class families, is starved of essential resources. This is why so many of our LAUSD families stood with us during the strike last year, called out this institutionalized racism and fought for the schools our children deserve.
Building power with my fellow educators along with students and families brings me hope for the future of public education.
Psychiatric Social Worker
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