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Gov. JB Pritzker Signs Legislation Aimed at Improving Way IL Schools Address Student Trauma

August 7, 2023

CHICAGO (WLS) — On Thursday, Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation aimed at improving the way Illinois schools address student trauma.

That includes a school report card that will provide information on how many counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists are in each school, starting in October 2024.

Experts say schools should have one psychologist for every 500 students. But as a state House committee heard last month, that ratio is much higher in Illinois.

“When a school psychologist is the only school psychologist for a large number of students, often the role becomes very narrow. And they spend a lot of time responding just to crises rather than providing health promotion and early intervention and the services that they would want to and are trained to provide,” said Dr. Brenda Huber, co-chair of Governmental Affairs for the Illinois School Psychologists Association.

And, she said, it’s a “two-pronged problem.”

“In the state of Illinois, school psychologists have been the most underproduced educational professionals for quite a few years now. So the problem pre-existed COVID, but, since COVID, we have seen the mental health needs of youth just explode,” Huber said. “Schools operate on a public health model, which means what we do for all the students should be enough for 85% to do well. And during COVID, we weren’t able to do all of those things that we do at tier one or these universal interventions that we provide to all students. And so, students began to deteriorate. And since COVID, there are so many students that came back who already had diagnosable conditions, but it’s been very, very difficult for school psychologists and other school support personnel now to provide those early intervention and prevention services. And so, a number of students are just declining because they’re not getting what they normally would have received.”