School Counselors Become Focus of HB81

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The Senate Education Committee made the unanimous endorsement for the proposed HB81 on Tuesday. This bill will have the Utah State Board of Education re-imagining the way that school counselors assist students.

Sponsored by Representative Susan Pulsipher, this bill takes the focus and aims it toward the state board, asking members to study the daily tasks of school counselors. The board will also be able to enforce certain rules that will put a stop to certain activities through counseling.

Anxiety, looming depression, learning delays and other factors cause students to turn to counselors for a lending hand or ear. Counselors are also expected to administer certain tests, assist students in their schedules and find what classes will help them the most with their goals upon graduation.

However, there are many students in Utah that have met with frustration rather than relief when they reach out for their school counselor only to continually find them unavailable. With HB81, the board will look deeper into the duties given to counselors and consider delegating them to other staff in order to ensure that counselors are helping students to the best of their abilities.

In Castle Country, there are many opportunities for counselors and students alike. At a recent Emery School Board meeting, Huntington Elementary School Principal Garth Johnson expressed his appreciation for counselor Ashley Jensen, stating that he is witnessing the students find their potential with her assistance.

Likewise, Carbon School District Superintendent Lance Hatch stated that the district’s school counselors do an amazing job of juggling different kinds of support for students.

“In spite of the marvelous efforts of our teachers, counselors and administrators, we face unique mental health challenges with many of our students. I believe HB81 intends to initiate rule making that requires counselors to spend more time helping students deal with mental health concerns,” Supt. Hatch stated.

Supt. Hatch also expressed his concern on the finality of tasks that HB81 is proposing. The bill will make it more difficult for the district to make local decisions regarding how best to employ the many skills presented by the counselors for both the elementary and secondary schools.

“Instead, the legislature ought to consider providing funding that would allow schools and districts to employ professionals specifically trained and able to provide mental health support for our students,” Supt. Hatch concluded.

Furthermore, this bill would require the State School Board to make reports to lawmakers during the Legislature’s interim meetings. At this time, the bill is heading to the Senate to pass further consideration.

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