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With the school massacre in Parkland, Florida, weighing heavily on the minds of county officials, the Prince William school board is mulling hiring dozens of new mental health professionals.

As with any budget matter, the school division’s leaders are beholden to the county supervisors, and will face an uphill battle in getting any spending increase. But after a 19-year-old shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, board members feel a new resolve to somehow provide more mental health support services for students in the county.

“We’re just lucky here, just flat out lucky nobody’s decided to walk through a school here with lots of guns and ammo,” Diane Raulston of the Neabsco District said at the board’s Feb. 28 work session on the fiscal 2019 budget. “And I think our school division is behind the times. We saw that with what happened down in Florida.”

Before the Parkland massacre ever brought the issue to a head, Superintendent Steve Walts proposed that the division hire one new mental health specialist, a part-time special education psychologist and two part-time social workers. Yet board members are signaling a willingness to go far beyond those modest additions to the workforce, in order to help troubled students get treatment before they ever turn to something as horrific as a school shooting.

“People want to see us with more mental health professionals,” said Alyson Satterwhite of the Gainesville District. “Our parents see this as a must-add and are demanding this.”

Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers announced immediately after the Parkland tragedy that he would be proposing a substantial hiring surge in new school counselors and psychologists. At the board’s work session, he asked division officials for a cost estimate on his ambitious proposal, which would raise county staffing levels to meet the staff-to-student ratios recommended by professional associations for both counselors and psychologists.

The American School Counselor Association recommends that divisions employ one counselor for every 250 students, while the National Association of School Psychologists suggests one psychologist for every 500 students. For Prince William, those standards would mean the division would need roughly 360 counselors and 180 psychologists; the county currently employs 233 counselors and 50 psychologists, according to school division data.

In an interview, Justin Wilk of the Potomac District said he supports the spirit behind Sawyers’ proposal, and he fully expects the board to examine ways to hire more staffers focused on students’ mental health. However, he’s not sure if those ambitious standards will be attainable in the new year’s budget.

“I’m not sure a single state in the country has met those ratios,” Wilk said. “But this was a major topic even before Parkland, so we’re definitely working on it.”

Indeed, Wilk lamented that the board’s “hands are tied” in many respects by the Board of County Supervisors, which sends roughly 55 percent of the county’s revenues to the school division each year as part of a set revenue-sharing agreement.

Any substantial staffing expansion would either require cuts elsewhere, or some county money beyond what the revenue sharing agreement dictates. Considering that supervisors are currently eyeing pay raises for county public safety workers as part of their own budget discussions, any additional funding for the school division will likely be a tall order.

Yet, with the way the Parkland shooting has forced issues surrounding gun control and mental health into the public consciousness, some board members are determined not to simply drop the matter.

“Parents have called and wanted to know, ‘Is my child safe?’” Raulston said. “We need to be clear on how safe we really are.”

(5) comments

CCW

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." - Rahm Emanuel

Across our nation the Liberal Democrats are politically milking every last ounce of blood out of the Florida school shootings tragedy. And now here comes Prince William County with their arms and mouths wide open.

This in spite of the fact that recent polls indicate that the parents of school children overwhelmingly said that they believe the problem is government bungling and stupidity versus guns. Rasmussen Reports 23% guns are the problem, 76% the government.

What the hell good is a gang of shrinks going to accomplish after a mass shooting at one of our local schools?

Will they explain how it could have easily been prevented, hand out prayer beads to everyone in sight or step up their demands for the Prince William County school board and county supervisors to make more and more stupid hiring recommendations?

Sadly if parents seriously want to protect their school age children now about all they can do is purchase them Kevlar vests. That way they will at least have a chance to survive instead of becoming a political statistic.

ALT26

There are 30,000 gun related deaths per year by firearms, and this number is not disputed. Population is 324,059,091 as of Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Do the math: 0.00925% of the population dies from gun related actions each year. Statistically speaking, this is insignificant! What is never told, however, is a breakdown of those 30,000 deaths, to put them in perspective as compared to other causes of death:

• 65% of those deaths are by suicide which would never be prevented by gun laws

• 15% are by law enforcement in the line of duty and justified

• 17% are through criminal activity, gang and drug related or mentally ill persons — gun violence

• 3% are accidental discharge deaths

So technically, "gun violence" is not 30,000 annually, but drops to 5,100. Still too many? Well, first, how are those deaths spanned across the nation?

• 480 homicides (9.4%) were in Chicago

• 344 homicides (6.7%) were in Baltimore

• 333 homicides (6.5%) were in Detroit

• 119 homicides (2.3%) were in Washington D.C. (a 54% increase over prior years)

So basically, 25% of all gun crime happens in just 4 cities. All 4 of those cities have strict gun laws, so it is not the lack of law that is the root cause. This basically leaves 3,825 for the entire rest of the nation, or about 75 deaths per state. That is an average because some States have much higher rates than others. For example, California had 1,169 and Alabama had 1.

Now, who has the strictest gun laws by far? California, of course, but understand, so it is not guns causing this. It is a crime rate spawned by the number of criminal persons residing in those cities and state. So if all cities and states are not created equally, then there must be something other than the tool causing the gun deaths.

Are 5,100 deaths per year horrific? Yes. How about in comparison to other deaths? Not really. All death, of course, is sad and especially so when it is in the commission of a crime, but that is the nature of crime. Robbery, death, rape, assault – all is done by criminals and thinking that criminals will obey laws is ludicrous. That’s why they are criminals.

But what about other deaths each year?

• 40.000 die from a drug overdose --THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THAT!

• 36.000 people die per year from the flu, far exceeding the criminal gun deaths

• 34,000 people die per year in traffic fatalities (exceeding gun deaths even if you include suicide)

Now it gets good:

• 200,000+ people die each year (and growing) from preventable medical error. You are safer in Chicago than when you are in a hospital!

• 710,000 people die per year from heart disease. It's time to stop the double cheeseburgers!

So what is the point? If the anti-gun movement focused their attention on healing disease, even a 10% decrease in cardiac deaths would save twice the number of lives annually of all gun-related deaths (including suicide, law enforcement, etc.). A 10% reduction in medical errors would be 66% of the total gun deaths or 4 times the number of criminal homicides – simple, easily preventable 10% reductions!

So you have to ask yourself, in the grand scheme of things, why the focus on guns? Its pretty simple:

Taking away guns gives control to governments.

The founders of this nation knew that regardless of the form of government, those in power may become corrupt and seek to rule as the British did by trying to disarm the populace of the colonies. It is not difficult to understand that a disarmed populace is a controlled populace.

Thus, the second amendment was proudly and boldly included in the Constitution. It must be preserved at all costs.

CCW

ALT26: The publishers and editors of publications like Inside Nova / similar must cringe every time they see one of your opt-in comments coming.

Well researched, well thought out, grammatically acceptable for Ballentine's Legal Dictionary rapid fire stuff that leaves them confused, defenseless and speechless.

In short, pleasurable to read.

ALT26

So you have to ask yourself, in the grand scheme of things, why the focus on guns? It's pretty simple.: Taking away guns gives control to governments.

The founders of this nation knew that regardless of the form of government, those in power may become corrupt and seek to rule as the British did by trying to disarm the populace of the colonies. It is not difficult to understand that a disarmed populace is a controlled populace.

Thus, the second amendment was proudly and boldly included in the U.S. Constitution. It must be preserved at all costs.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that gun control is about saving lives, look at these facts and remember these words from Noah Webster: "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force at the command of Congress can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power."

Remember, when it comes to "gun control," the important word is “control," not “gun."

JJ Reynolds

I would be far more concerned with making sure we have police who will actually enter the school and not wait until it's completely safe before going in.

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