The Job of School Counselors

I’m angry.

Today, one of my students pulled me aside and explained how he had been abused and that last night his father had been really upset and the young man called the police before his father broke his cell phone. The cops arrived and took dad away, but step-mom blamed it on the son and told him to have his things packed by the next day. She also berated him for ruining his father’s career. I told him that I would try to find someplace for him to stay until he could move to live with his mother or something else. At this point, I’m not really sure what to do. I have no training in this. No manual from the administration that says, “In case of confessions of abuse, do this:” I’m ready for a tornado drill, though.

So, I go to the counselors’ office. We have three for our student body of about 1000 students. Plus a secretary. They are all gone today and will be gone for another day because they are working on registering the 8th grade students for classes. Not one of them will even be in the building today or tomorrow. Because it is more important to work on registration than to be available for ANY of the students today who might need something. Is that their primary focus? They should all be gone at the same time? Ever?

Realizing that I’m running out of time on my lunch break, I hurry to the principals’ office. Again, we have three. Two are in a meeting and one is gone for two days. The clock is ticking and I still don’t even know who to talk to. I go to some teachers on their lunch break. They have some ideas. None pan out.

Finally, I hunt down one of our ED counselors. She, luckily, has no students with her and she knows what to do. She calls social services, and doesn’t take “too busy” for an answer. She knows what forms to fill out. She helps me find the class this young man is in his classroom and we talk for a moment and then she takes him away to try and find a safe place for him and do whatever else needs to be done. (File charges, I think? I wonder why this wasn’t done by the cops. I wish I know more about these proceedings.) To top it off, she tells me that he will stop in and talk to me later in the day to let me know what is happening, so I don’t have to worry that he might be going to his home while it all gets sorted out. I hope it does. He’s a good kid and doesn’t deserve what’s happening. None do, really.

I love our ED counselor. She’s fantastic. She does her job. Her office is a hole in the wall above a gymnasium that you have to search to find. The other counselors have a big easy-to-find office.

What are these other counselors doing, though? Helping students to click some boxes on a computer? Really? Is that the best use of their abilities? Irritated. Angry. Sad. I’ve got them all going.

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

EDIT:  I talked with the student today at school.  He stayed at his home last night, but his dad stayed somewhere else.  Tomorrow he will fly out to live with his mother.  I hope it works out for him.  It certainly shouldn’t be worse.



  1. Dana Huff said,

    February 11, 2009 at 2:31 am

    You did the right thing. Had you been unable to locate a counselor, it would have been necessary for you to call social services — the police could have given you the number if you didn’t know it — and report it yourself as teachers are required by law to report suspicion of abuse. Good luck! These situations are horrible. I hope it all works out.

  2. February 11, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Thanks, Dana. It’s hard to know if you are doing the right thing sometimes. The update so far is that I was told that my student will be flying away tomorrow to live with his mother, but I don’t know where he is tonight. The counselor assured me that he would be placed somewhere, but my principal explained that in his experience, the child often ends up in the home again while paperwork is sorted out. I really hope that is not the case, but I may never know. He did not stop by my room at the end of the day, so I’m a little saddened that I didn’t get to say goodbye.

    The struggle today was trying to solve this problem between classes before the school day ended so my student would not have to go home. And, I’d never had to do this before.

  3. renaissanceguy said,

    February 17, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Your principal should make sure that every teacher knows what to do in such a situation. I’m sorry that you were left to track a helpful person down when the kind of people who are specifically trained in this were off doing other things. But I am glad that you had the tenacity to get help for this student.

    Under the law you are required to report it yourself if no other school official will help you. Some schools have a procedure for teachers to follow, and the teachers are apprised of it. It’s sad that the police (seemingly) had not followed through on the case for this student’s sake. They could already have alerted social services and gotten the ball rolling there.

    Even if you had to skip a class, you would have been right in helping this kid.

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