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State education system struggles to provide counseling services for students

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Posted at 6:41 AM, Jul 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 09:41:25-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - The state education system is having trouble keeping up with student needs, with a ratio of 905 students for every counselor statewide.

The national average is 455 to 1.

As students prepare to head back to school, there hasn't been much change in those numbers.

As a result, mental health resources are lacking for public school students in the state.

"It's a really big issue across the United States, where mental health is not getting the attention it really deserves in our public school system," said Joshua Ashton, who graduated from Empire High SChool in May. He's currently the political co-director for March for Our Lives Arizona.

The organization focuses on safety on school campuses.

Ashton says the organization works to combat gun violence, as well as advocating for physical safety.

"A lot of people have this misconception about school where first and foremost, it's about education," he said. "I mean, yes that makes sense. Really first and foremost -- your students should be safe. Emotionally and physically. Because if they're not, how in the world are they going to learn?"

Ashton says the mounting pressure facing high school students -- on top of a mental health crisis -- creates a difficult situation for students. He said he didn't really feel support from counselors at Empire.

"There were so many other students," he said, "that for the vast majority of my high school years, I didn't really feel as if my specifically designated high school counselor actually knew who I was, until maybe senior year."

TUSD's ratio is 500 to 1, while Vail's is 750 to 1. Marana's is 378 to 1.

The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250 to 1.

Legislation to add more counselors was not heard in the state legislature this past session. Two bills would have mandated a ratio of 550 students to every counselor.

Gov. Doug Ducey recently signed a budget that included $15 million to fund more counselors and student resource officers.