Vacant school psychologist positions jeopardize special needs students in 17 CCSD schools

Vacant school psychologist positions jeopardize special needs students in 17 CCSD schools
September 04 17:14 2017 Print This Article

Charleston County School District (CCSD) has 9 openings for school psychologists. There are currently 17 schools with psychologist vacancies. Other psychologists in the district are covering the caseloads. Most of the schools lacking a psychologist are Title I schools with high poverty populations. Often these parents do not know how to navigate the special education process and are unaware of the services the district should provide their child.

The primary responsibility of a school psychologist is to assess students to determine if they need special education services. CCSD ‘s Child Find provides free developmental and academic screenings for children who have not been previously identified as students with disabilities from age 2 years, 9 months to age 21. Parents who suspect their child is having developmental problems can contact Child Find and have an assessment done by a school psychologist. Having a child assessed is a lengthy process, usually taking from six months to a year. Since the district is lacking psychologists, this process will take even longer. A parent with a three-year-old child suspected of having autism needs intervention and services in a timely manner. Hiring a private psychologist to do an evaluation can cost from $1000 to $2000 and most of the time is not covered by insurance.

Another responsibility of a school psychologists is the do threat assessments. They assess when a student poses a risk to themselves or to others. This is an enormous responsibility and not having a dedicated psychologist at a school can affect the safety of the students and staff.

Lowcountry Source has been told that although school psychologists are considered administrators, the CCSD school psychologists make less per day than teachers with the same years of experience and level of degrees. Psychologists are typically on an 11-month contract compared to 9-months for teachers. In surrounding school districts, school psychologists are paid at least on the teacher pay scale. This certainly accounts for some of the shortages in CCSD. Lowcountry Source has also been told of numerous violations of special education law on the part of CCSD. Lowcountry Source will document some of those violations in future reports.

Robin Steinberger retired after 30 years from Charleston County School District as a high school special education teacher.  She is the education reporter for Lowcountry Source.  Please contact Robin at robin@lowcountrysource.com if you have tips to offer.  Your confidentiality will be maintained.