The Fight

The Fight

I don’t know why but for some reason I wanted to do this week’s blog about school counselors, social workers and psychologist. It was on my heart, so I decided to dive in. I started by counting how many schools there are in MPS School District. Disclaimer: I picked MPS because it is the district Aria was in. It’s the one I know most about. Although the school/student numbers are MPS specific my findings are a national and a state issue, as you will see.

I started by counting how many schools there are in MPS School District (Not including ALT and Special Ed Schools).

Based on a school meal annual report for MPS schools for 2018

There are, 44 elementary schools with approximately 19,929 students.

7 middle schools with approximately 4,407 students.

10 high schools with approximately 9,471 students.

With an approximate total of 33,807 students.

I planned on going through each school directory. With that, averaging how many School Counselors, Social Workers and Psychologists there were at each school. Then I could average the ratio between student to professional. The problem with that is, not each school’s website, had the information. Maybe it’s because the transition of the summer, they’re hiring new staff or maybe they just don’t have mental health support. My data would not be accurate if I continued to try and work that way. However, I could prove one school’s statistic.

I counted every student from Aria’s 8th grade year book (gosh her picture is so pretty). I know there is one Social Worker for the Upper Campus. There are special ed teachers but there are no other counselors or psychologist on staff, only 1. The ratio at Lake Harrier Upper is 634:1

This is unacceptable and impossible for a social worker to meet the needs of our children. I dug deeper and realized this is not just a Lake Harriet problem, this is now a National Problem .

In order to become a school social worker in Minnesota, you must have a Master’s degree in Social Work( I just learned you can have a Baccalaureate in Social Work to be a school social worker, I stand corrected) As well as a license in Social Work from the Minnesota Board of Social Work. Also, a School Social Work license from the Minnesota Board of Education. I have them both. I wanted to be a school social worker. Primarily because I wanted to have the same schedule as Aria. We would have Christmas break off, spring break, and summer break, together. Although you don’t make much, it was a schedule that allowed me to spend more time with my child. That is why I wanted it so badly. Since getting my license in August 2017, I have applied to over 25 schools. With only one call back. Even though, I have experience and all the requirements needed.

Now, that Aria has passed. It is not my goal to work in a school. I think my education and my knowledge has put me in a position where people may listen to me. We are not in a place where we have a lack of qualified professionals. The problem is the lack of funding. The problem is that our school’s (meaning Minnesota Schools) budget can’t (or won’t) spend more money on mental health professionals in schools. Now, I am just scratching the surface. I’m not even going to get into why it’s more important today, than ever. This public health issue goes against everything we are taught when we are receiving our license. Calling ourselves Social Worker’s/Psychologist’s/Counselor’s means we uphold a level of standards and it is unethical if we don’t.

“School social workers play a critical role in schools and educational settings. Social workers working within school systems provide services to students to enhance their emotional well-being and improve their academic performance. School social workers are usually employed by the school district or an agency that is contracted with the school district to provide services. School social workers are often called on to help students, families, and teachers address problems such as truancy, social withdrawal, overaggressive behaviors, rebelliousness, and the effects of special physical, emotional, or economic problems (Barker, 2003). School social workers often also address issues such as substance abuse and sexuality issues in the higher-grade levels.” (National Association of Social Workers, 2010)


“School psychologists are uniquely qualified members of school teams that support students’ ability to learn and teachers’ ability to teach. They apply expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior, to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. School psychologists’ partner with families, teachers, school administrators, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments that strengthen connections between home, school, and the community.” (National Association of School Psychologists,2019)


“The Essential Role of Middle School Counselors is to provide comfort, understanding and approval. Identifying students’ academic and social/emotional needs, as well as providing any necessary interventions, is essential in removing barriers to learning and helping students develop skills and behaviors critical for academic achievement. The knowledge, attitudes and skills students acquire during these years build the foundation for future success. Meeting the need Middle school counselors are educators uniquely trained in child and adolescent development, learning strategies, self-management and social skills. They implement a comprehensive school counseling program to support students through this important developmental period. The school counseling program provides education, prevention and intervention activities, which are integrated into all aspects of students’ lives. The program teaches students the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary for academic, career and social/emotional development.” (American School Counselor Association, 2017)


What are we doing? Where are our priorities? How can we meet the needs of our students with numbers like this? This should infuriate parents, the Board of Social Work, The National Association of Psychologists, and The American School Counselor Association…………….I hope it does.

Aria left school sick on Monday, February 4th, 2019. She called me and said she wasn’t feeling good. Yet, the phone call didn’t come from the nurse, it came from Bug in the office. She didn’t have a fever and she wasn’t vomiting, so I told her to go back to class. About 15 minutes later, she called me back, and she was crying. She said she felt awful and that the Assistant Principal was being a “huge bitch” to her that day. “Mom, I just need and want to go home, please, I’m begging you.” I was working, I couldn’t grab her. She called my mom and my mom offered to bring her home. Aria got home and laid in bed all night, in and out of sleep. At about 9:30pm, I went in to check on her one last time. I thought she was asleep. I rubbed her little forehead, she turned to face me and said “Mom, will you do me a favor? Will you get me a ginger ale?” I said “of course, bud.” That ginger ale can is still sitting next to her bed, empty. I can’t get rid of it. I kissed her and went to bed myself. I had to be at work by 7:30am. Aria didn’t start school till 9:40am. Tuesday, February 5th, I walked into her room rubbed and kissed her head, like I did every morning. That was the last time I saw my daughter alive.

I called MPS schools and asked for records of what happened that day between Aria and the Assistant Principal (AP). Along with what procedures they took to provide extra mental health support to the students who just lost their friend. It was a written statement from the principal. I asked for proof, contracts, documents, proving that these services were provided. I still haven’t gotten those. Just “assurance” that they did “everything they could.”

I’m so mad at Lake Harriet. I’m so fucking mad. As I was going through her yearbook, there wasn’t one other photo of her, other than her classroom pic. She played in Rock Band and sang in 3 concerts that year. There were no pictures of the purple balloon memorial the STUDENTS put together for her. Nothing. They really dropped the ball on how they handled Aria’s death. Now, in no way am I saying Lake Harriet played a role in Aria completing suicide. But they sure as hell didn’t do anything to prevent it. Who knows what the conversation between Aria and the AP was about 2 days before she passed?  I didn’t push Aria to explain what happened that evening because she needed her rest. I wish I would have. I have a “recollection” statement from the AP of what happened, but timeline wise, it doesn’t add up (I will explain that another time). Also, its SURE AS HELL doesn’t seem like they did much to try to prevent it from happening to other students after Aria passed. I guess that’s just the gamble we take as parents when our children are provided a 634:1 ratio to counseling/mental health services at school.

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  • Olivia Edwards says:

    At school if we are upset or something is going, we will go to the psychiatrist she just tells us to ho back to class. And it takes days for her to see if we still need whatever

  • Angi says:

    This is MY BIGGEST FEAR. Having a son with Autism and depression is hard enough but he is so intelligent and the fact that I have to be petrified for my sons safety at school causing me to question the schools ability to handle his needs and take on the possibility of homeschooling, in turn limiting his education just baffles me. WHY? How are our children’s lives not important enough to correct this? Why is special education and emotional support always put on the back burner when it comes to funding? How do they expect children to thrive to the best of their abilities if they aren’t nurturing them in addition to teaching them? How do they expect them to learn at their full potential and capabilities? How do they expect the suicide rates to go down if they are not catching it at this delicate age? It’s ridiculous. THANK YOU for calling them out. I do the same and will continue to do it because NO CHILD should have to go through that pain and NO CHILD should lose their beautiful spirit due to negligence.

  • Charlotte Olson says:

    I am starting my 30th year with an Intermediate Special Education District. That being said, last year I worked in a program where classrooms consisted of 8 students one special education teacher one social worker and one pair of professional. The program was amazing and it made me realize how regular education needs these mental health services available to all students. We seem to be willing to put money toward the rich getting richer incarceration of children on the border and Military but we’re not willing to provide the health are students need. I have had several of my students over the years take their own lives. We have plans in place of what to do but still it’s always by the seat of our pants. As someone left behind by Suicide of my sister and best friend my heart breaks for you every single day.

  • Constance Smith says:

    I’m sitting here sick to my stomach, heartbroken for your having to be in this situation…. I miss the new buggy updates 💝 … & Just like you are saying- worried about the other kids who are in need and will be in need this coming school year…💔. In Jr. High& high school, I was horribly bullied, severely overwhelmed and depressed following my first heartbreak, it was a fellow student who stopped me from completing on my way outside to do it in the parking lot. I got to that moment after seeing my (fresh) ex making out with his new gf (one of my “friends” ) as I exited my social studies class… ( you, him & I were in many classes together)
    I tried to get help but instead of listening to or helping me, the always irritated+rushed school staff I was directed to< targeted me as a possible dangerous person because of my black clothes (?) I was devastated. I was dealing with Caring for all 3 of my siblings as my father was dying… No one cared. I am still shocked I survived those years… I couldn't risk opening up to anyone, ppl said they were there for me but when I needed help most, they ditched me because I was down and not as fun to hang out with as other people with more money or other cool benefits I didn't have to offer. I've grown and changed a lot since then, finally found some confidence..
    I want to help somehow. I don't know how to say this the right way, but I'm so here for you and I am so in awe of and have respect for your journey and if there's ever anything I can do to help please let me know 💙 pardon me for possibly not explaining very well… Thanks so much for sharing this with us all. Love you girl. Xoxo -connie

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