The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Last week, the School Psychology Program in the UNC School of Education and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools celebrated National School Psychology Week, highlighting the work of K-12 school psychologists and their impact on the mental health of students despite a shortage in the profession.

The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one psychologist for every 500 students, but national data shows that the current ratio is one psychologist to 1,127 students.

Steve Knotek, an associate professor of school psychology at UNC, said he recognizes the need for the growth of the profession. He said schools are a primary place of mental health service, but that they are often understaffed.

“We’re desperately under-resourced as school psychologists to meet the needs,” he said. “It’s just we’re all scrambling and trying to figure out how to make this happen.”

To alleviate resource issues, Knotek said those in the UNC school psychology program try to work with the N.C. General Assembly to pass laws that would help students.

The program hosted an event each day of National School Psychology Week with a different theme, Eliah Anderson, a second year doctoral student in the UNC School of Education's psychology program, said. She said the week included a tailgate, an appreciation day and an advocacy day. 

Teonaka Daye, the CHCCS director of psychological and support services, said in an email the district is fortunate to have a full school psychology staff. She said, on average, there is one designated psychologist for each high school. The remaining psychologists serve two schools each, Daye said.

We have made great strides in ensuring each psychologist on our team is in a position to provide a full continuum of school psychological services,” she said.

Daye said the school psychologists provide a number of services to students, including skill groups, social emotional learning groups, plan development and crisis support. She said they provide help to family and staff members as well.

Anderson said she has recognized that schools are more than just learning centers. They are a central resource for students who have multiple needs, she said.

“More and more research is just coming out that shows that when students’ basic psychological needs are met, then they're able to learn or if those psychological needs aren't met, then that's a hindrance to their learning,” she said. 

Anderson said she has noticed confusion about what school psychologists do and that many students and parents do not know about the support services that are available. She said she wants to encourage more people to learn about resources because awareness of resources is the first step towards a greater awareness of what the field of school psychologcan do.

Chelsea McGraw, a first year doctoral student in the UNC School Psychology Program, said she began her work in the field to prevent students from falling through the cracks. 

“Whenever there was someone there to support the social and psychological aspects of learning for the kiddos, there was a more coherent narrative for each kid — as they kind of progressed through the school — to support them in meeting their own goals,” she said

@DTHCityState |

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for November 20, 2023

More in City & County

More in The OC Report

More in City & State

More in Education