Report: Area school districts do not have enough psychologists

by: Paige Hansen Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Channel 9 uncovered that no school districts in our area have enough school psychologists, at least according to a ratio recommended by the national association of school psychologists or NASP. The organization says districts should have at least one psychologist for every 500 to 700 students.
Cyndi Shaw has worked in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools psychology department 30 years. She has seen need go up, and resources go down.

"It just seems like more and more students come to us not prepared to function successfully in the classroom," Shaw said.

Channel 9 asked nine local school districts for their number of total students and full-time psychologists and discovered none came close to the ratio recommended by NASP. With more than 142,000 students, CMS has 62 psychologists, one for every 2,300 students.

"That is higher than the national average," NASP's Eric Rossen said.

But the worst in our area is Cabarrus County Schools with one psychologist for every 6,000 students.  
CMS                      142,614                 62                                           2,300
UNION                  41,107                   30                                           1,370
GASTON              31,130                   18                                           1,729
CABARRUS        30,000                   5                                              6,000
IREDELL              20,804                   8                                              2,600
ROWAN                19,650                   11                                           1,786
LINCOLN              11,634                   4                                              2,908
LANCASTER      11,903                   10                                           1,190
YORK                    5,200                     4                                              1,300
Via Skype Wednesday, Rossen said the recommendation of one psychologist for every 500 to 700 students is the minimum needed to provide comprehensive services. He said most districts nationwide don't meet the recommendation due to cost but says an early focus on mental health can be financially beneficial.

"It reduces things like dropout, truancy, in-school violence or arrests and promote a lot of positive outcomes," Rossen said.

Shaw says students come with a range of issues, from anxiety to dealing with homelessness or violence at home and that having mental health support can prevent minor class disruptions to major violent events. 

"The current research is telling us 25 to 30 percent of students in our schools have a diagnosable mental health condition," Shaw said.

This year, CMS superintendent Heath Morrison asked county leaders for $3.7 million for more psychologists, counselors and social workers on campuses. Mecklenburg County commissioners say they'll fund that amount.

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