SDEA Calls on Noem to Invest in Mental Health Supports for Students as They Return to School


The following statement is attributed to South Dakota Education Association President Loren Paul in response to Governor Noem’s comments regarding the re-opening of schools.

“The South Dakota Education Association (SDEA) agrees with Governor Noem that it is best for students to have in-person learning. Educators across the state are asking to be a part of the conversation, as local school boards and administrators develop plans to allow school to open as safely as possible. SDEA especially appreciates the Governor’s focus on the many inequities our low-income students face, particularity when it comes to their social and emotional well-being.  SDEA urges Governor Noem to target a significant portion of South Dakota’s CARES Act funds to help schools provide mental supports for all our students who are struggling. This is a crucial component of any school opening plan that makes the health and safety of students a priority.”

“The South Dakota Department of Education (SDDOE)  endorsed the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) “School Reentry Considerations” as a part of its Starting Well 2020 Resources. The SDDOE guide recommends schools need one school counselor for every 250 students and one school psychologist for every 500 students.  South Dakota falls well short of this recommendation for school counselors with a ratio only one school counselor for every 376 students. In some of our highest-need schools, the ratio is even worse.  In other words, a hypothetical school of 1,500 students should be equipped with nine school-based mental health providers, however, this same school in South Dakota would likely only have four. Improving this ratio must be a priority for our state in the wake of the pandemic.”

“As students come back to school, we know many of them will have experienced trauma and will have mental health needs we as educators must rise to meet. Therefore, it is crucial that districts have well thought out plans to make health and safety a top priority. Districts will need the ability to access school counselors, psychologists, and social workers to help our students get back on track. It is why we invite Governor Noem to work with schools and educators across the state to use a significant portion of the CARES Act money to help schools access mental health supports for students and encourage her to reach out to Senator Thune and Senator Rounds to support the HEROES Act. The additional dollars could make a significant impact in helping our schools be healthy, safe and to help us support all students in need of extra support during this unprecedented time. It is what our students deserve.”

SDEA is South Dakota’s largest education professionals’ organization, representing more than 5,000 elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.