Aimee Patton

A pleasantly eccentric take on politics

Dear Congress:

I know you all are on Christmas Break.  I hope you can take a second to read this.  I’m sure you already know that Wayne LaPierre , the NRA’s spokesman, gave a press conference on Friday and appeared on Meet the Press.  Some Congressman and Senators have  issued statements also supporting no new gun control laws that would infringe on the 2nd amendment.  LaPierre asked that we put an armed security guard in all of our nation’s schools.

“If it’s crazy to put more guns in schools, then call me crazy.” LaPierre said.

You’re crazy Mr. LaPierre.  That was easy.

Here’s why.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2009-2010 there were 98,817 schools in the United States.  This year we had Sandy Hook – that is one mass shooting out of 98,817.

Since 1927 there have been 11 school shootings. I am in no way minimizing these tragedies.  I, like any other concerned parent, realize that one tragedy is too many. However, common sense tells me that the odds are that my child will be safe.  Common sense also tells me that restricting the access to assault weapons would have also reduced the number of casualties in these shootings.  It’s not more guns to arm our teachers and added armed  guards to attempt to shoot intruder, it’s less high-powered guns to reduce the number of casualties.

Here is another point that Mr. LaPierre and politicians are leaving out.  The onset of most mental illness in people is 14 years old.  If mental health really needs to be overhauled in this country why have politicians frequently tried to cut school funding for vital programs like school counseling?  In some states school counseling programs have been eliminated altogether.

What do school counselors do?  According to the School Counselors Association,”Secondary school counselors are professional educators with a mental health perspective who understand and respond to the challenges presented by today’s diverse student population.”

The legislative update from the School Counselors Association reads:

The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program (ESSCP), the only federal program dedicated to creating and expanding school counseling services in America’s public schools, remains funded for FY12. Although the House of Representatives attempted to eliminate the program, the Senate and House ultimately agreed to fund ESSCP at approximately $52.296 million. The FY12 funding amount is a cut of 0.189 percent from FY11, which is the amount that was cut from all education programs.

I went through the list of each state and who has funded school counseling programs.  You can read the complete list here.

Some interesting findings:

Connecticut
Is school counseling mandated for grades K-8? No
Is school counseling mandated for grades 9-12? No
Is a mandate being considered? No
Certification rule (see p. 111)

Colorado 

Is school counseling mandated for grades K-8? No
Is school counseling mandated for grades 9-12? No
Is a mandate being considered? No
Other: Colorado is a local control state, which means many pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public education decisions (issues of curriculum, personnel, school calendars, graduation requirements, classroom policy, etc.) are made by the 176 school district administrations and their school boards.
Certification rule (see p. 165)

and my own great state of KS

Kansas
Is school counseling mandated for grades K-8? No
Is school counseling mandated for grades 9-12? No
Is a mandate being considered? No
Certification rule

I’m not a journalist, just a concerned parent.  I know that if we really want to do something to improve mental health in our nation, it is early detection and intervention.  Not funding and mandating school counseling is wrong.  There is still a need to ban assault weapons.   Putting armed guards in 98,000 of our nation’s schools costs money.   I would rather us arm every school with a qualified school counselor than a security guard.  

If I remember from the last election cycle, most of you ran on fiscal responsibility and no more “politics as usual”.  Show me you stand by your promise.  Fund programs that work like school counselors instead programs we know don’t work like armed guards in schools. Require that every school in our nation have a qualified school counselor with mental health screening for our youth.  Not only can we help prevent tragedies like shootings, but also other mental health initiatives like suicides and bullying.

Thank you,

Aimee Patton

Parent to a six-year-old and voter

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