Waco Independent School District’s board of trustees is open to allowing private mental health counselors back onto district campuses if the administration can find a way to do so without disrupting classes.
In a discussion at Thursday’s board meeting, Trustee Cary DuPuy asked the administration to try to find a way to allow private counselors to assist with the mental health of students.
“These interactions could be very important to these (students),” DuPuy said in an interview after the meeting.
The Waco ISD administration began denying private counselors access to campuses at the end of 2014 after principals and teachers complained that therapists were taking students out of core classes too often for private sessions.
Counselors would arrive on campus without formal identification and demand to see a child, Waco ISD Superintendent Bonny Cain said.
In a previous board meeting, Shelly Rogers-Sharer, president-elect of the Heart of Texas Counseling Association, asked the board to reverse its decision, saying the policy abandons students in need of mental health services.
Cain said state law allows her to approve recurring absences, but students still must have a 90 percent attendance rate and some students were missing more than 10 percent of their classes.
Some campuses also were too small to allow another room to be used entirely for private counseling sessions, she said.
But, DuPuy said, counselors are trying to reach children who come from unstable backgrounds and can really help the students.
“Some of these students come from homes where the parents aren’t going to get them where they need to be,” DuPuy said.
Board President Pat Atkins agreed with DuPuy, saying he would like to see the administration work with the counseling companies, but that it must be done in a way that is not disruptive to the school day.
Counselors should not be allowed simply to arrive without the administration’s prior approval and it should not be detrimental to a student’s education, he said.
“No one here is opposed to children getting mental health services,” he said.