Things HSLDA Opposes: Social Workers in Schools

Things HSLDA Opposes: Social Workers in Schools March 5, 2015

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View “Things HSLDA Opposes” series introduction here, and all posts here.

Just over a year ago, three individuals representing various community causes gave presentations at my Unitarian Universalist church. Each year the church chooses one community cause to partner with financially, and these individuals were vying for that position. The first presenter introduced herself as Susan Miller, the social worker for Lynnwood Elementary School*, and I sat up a little bit straighter and began to listen more attentively. My daughter Sally was still in preschool at the time, but this was the school she would be attending in the fall as a kindergarten student.

Susan explained that 75% of students at Lynnwood qualify for free school lunches, and that in the last year 10% of the school’s children had experienced homelessness. She explained that the school gives each child a snack before sending the home at the end of the day, because they know that for some of them—perhaps many of them—this will be the last food they eat all day. She explained that the grant they’d been given to cover snacks was almost up, and that they were looking for new funding.

After listening to the other two presentations, however, Susan stood up and took the podium again, this time to withdraw her application. She explained that she had been so moved by the other applicants’ appeals—both were local charities working with families in poverty—that she could not in good conscience ask for the church’s money when she had other funding avenues yet to be explored. “We will find a way to feed our children,” she said, with a voice firm yet full of emotion. After the service, several parishioners approached her with offers to help in whatever way they could.

This was how I learned that my daughter’s elementary school has its own social worker. And you know what? I’m very glad it does.

But HSLDA is not.

[West Virginia] House Bill 2842: Social workers in elementary schools

Summary:

This bill would establish a four-year pilot program to have social workers in public schools, from prekindergarten through the elementary school.

HSLDA’s Position:

Oppose.

As regular readers will know, HSLDA—the Home School Legal Defense Association—involves itself in bills that have nothing to do with homeschooling (like this one) and (to all appearances) views social workers as the enemy of the family. But while some social workers work for child protective services, not all do—and even those who work for child protective services spend more time working to give families support than they do “snatching” kids.

Let’s take a look at the bill text:

§18-5-18f. Social worker pilot programs; reports. (a) County boards shall, by July 1, 2015, establish four year social worker pilot programs for all children in prekindergarten though elementary school. (b) For purposes of this section, “social worker” means a non teaching school employee who, at a minimum:

(1) Possesses a license in social work with the West Virginia Board of Social Work;

(2) Has a minimum of five years experience working with children and families; and

(3) Has experience conducting home visits, providing parent education, crisis intervention and advocacy and support services, with school based social work experience being preferred.

(c) Abuse and neglect, poor nutrition and health care, behavior problems, homelessness, poor academic performance, lack of parent evolvement and substance abuse are areas of concern facing public education. Teachers and support staff are called upon to address these issues to the detriment of their educational responsibilities. Having a trained social worker available to students, staff and parents is beneficial in the following ways:

(1) Permit problems to be addressed by professionals trained to deal with those issues and guide teachers and staff on child protective laws;

(2) Unburden teachers and support staff so they can focus on performing their educational responsibilities to the students;

(3) The social worker’s role will be to work with the guidance counselor with a team approach. The social worker would not only work with the child at the school but conduct home visits as necessary to address parent issues, provide parenting education, address social and emotional issues, address physical and mental health issues and advocate for the family linking them to necessary community resources; and

(4) Assist in ensuring an atmosphere in the classroom where learning can be achieved to ensure the child’s success in school and life.

(d) Pilot programs implemented by the county boards shall provide for a minimum of one social worker for one Title 1, prekindergarten through elementary school, in each county. If more than one Title 1 elementary school exists in the county that qualifies, the Title 1 school with the lowest test scores should be given preference. This will ensure the social worker is placed in a high poverty school where students are most in need. Addressing issues of concern in a child’s early educational experience can prevent future problems from occurring.

This is what HSLDA opposes.

Remember when I said that HSLDA opposes allowing parents a wider range of options when it disagrees with those options? My daughter goes to a Title 1 elementary school that has its own social worker—and I’m glad it does. But if HSLDA had its way, they would take that away. In other words, HSLDA is less interested in what I, a parent affected by this kind of legislation, want than in pursuing their agenda.

But then, I’m not longer surprised by this.

* All names and titles changed for privacy.

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