CMS pushes for more mental and emotional support for students

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District (CMS) Superintendent  Dr. Clayton Wilcox wants $4.4 million extra in the 2018-2019 budget to hire more counselors, social workers, and psychologists.

The district admits the workload is taking its toll on counselors resulting in students not getting the support.

"They've said the needs are such that I really can't go below surface level," CMS Executive Director of Student Services Dr. Cotrane Penn said. "I have to provide shallow level of support because of the demands I am under."

Here's the issue: CMS is the second largest school district in the state. It educates more than 148,000 students. The district only has 50 social workers - that equals one social worker per 2,957 students. CMS says the workload is overwhelming. If the district gets the extra money, the number would look more like one social worker per 2,119 students.

CMS says it has 70 psychologists. That means there is one psychologist per 2,105 students. If ten more psychologists are hired, CMS would have one per 1,500 students. Penn says the extra support is what teachers say they need.

"They say the biggest barrier they have to teaching is student behavior and emotional needs," Penn said.

The school district says students experience some type of trauma daily. Recently a CMS student was arrested at Garinger High School with a loaded gun in his waistband. He was arrested in connection with a homicide investigation. Other CMS students have also been in trouble with the law.

Leaders say this type of behavior coming from students can be troubling for others who are not wanted by police, and that the trauma could cause them to miss school.

"A student who is afraid at school or doesn't feel safe in their school environment is likely to have attendance difficulties," Penn said.

Educators believe students getting the mental and emotional support will help them focus more on what's happening in the classroom.

"He or she is going to be more able to get into instruction because we are going to be able to better support that student," Penn said.

Wilcox is asking for about $40 million extra from Mecklenburg County to help meet the mental and emotional needs. Also, state leaders have been talking about possibly giving more money for school districts so they can hire more social workers.

Copyright 2018 WBTV. All rights reserved.