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Lauren Dunn, San Clemente

I cannot recall a time when I feared going to school, yet now I fear sending my own children to school. Schools are supposed to be safe, nurturing environments where children can go to learn and grow.

So my question is why are we failing to provide the necessary services to facilitate healthy minds and academic achievement?

Currently the average counselor to student ratio is 1:471, which is almost double what is recommended by the American Counseling Association. With suicide being the third leading cause of death for adolescents and school violence increasing, this raises great concern.

As a graduate student in the masters of social work program at the University of Southern California I have had the opportunity to advocate for change by gaining support for H.R. 320, The Student Support Act. This act, which amends the Secondary Education Act of 1965, will require the Secretary of Education to provide $1 million in grants for schools to hire mental health professionals in order to reduce the student-to-provider ratio.

I can say from personal experience when I attended San Clemente High School the school counselor made a large impact on my life; in fact she is the reason why I chose to go into the social work field. Unfortunately, because of budget cuts, schools have not been able to provide mental health services. Considering the recent events involving school violence and bullying I feel that this bill can make a large impact.

If passed there will be one school counselor for every 250 students, one school psychologist for every 1,000 students, and one social worker for every 250 students.

Over the last four months, I have been involved in grassroots activism to gain support for this bill and have created an online petition. If anyone is interested in supporting this bill, sign the petition at www.thepetitionsite.com/745/070/359/student-support-act.

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