The national average of school counselors per students as of the 2013-14 school year was about two counselors per 1,000 students, and six of the top 10 districts—New York City, Chicago, Clark County, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough County, and Hawaii—did beat that.
A spokesperson for the Houston Independent School District, where it seems a student is more likely to encounter a cop in the hallway than a counselor, said the district is committed to making sure “every child has access to counseling services.” That could be through a school-based counselor or the district’s partnerships with Texas Children’s Hospital and the Memorial Hermann healthcare network. The district also pointed out that while the school system’s police department are Houston ISD’s “law enforcement agency, they’re also taking on the role of mentoring and supporting students.”
Spokespeople from Chicago Public Schools and Miami-Dade County Public Schools did not respond to requests for comment or could not respond in time for publication. The story will be updated as additional responses are received.
Miami-Dade employs more than six security staffers for every 1,000 students, though about 40 percent are part time. New York City employs more than five security personnel for every 1,000 students and Chicago over four.
In contrast, Los Angeles Unified, the second-largest district in the country, has less than one security staffer for each 1,000 students and one counselor for every 824 students.
Nevada’s Clark County has the most counselors per security staff at a ratio of four-to-one, while Miami-Dade has the lowest, at about 0.4 counselors for each security personnel.
There was significant variation from district to district for both sets of numbers, but it was much wider for security staff than counselors. That suggests districts have a good deal of discretion when deciding how much they want to spend attempting to maintain order, prevent crimes, or respond to in-school incidents.
David Osher, a vice president of the American Institute of Research, has studied issues that affect what’s called “school climate,” a broad term that encompasses everything from how safe a school feels to how well students relate to teachers and other staff to how high teachers set expectations for learning. He said he found it “troubling” that districts might employ more security staff than counselors. Osher emphasized that what matters isn’t necessarily the titles that different adults in schools have, but whether they played a positive role in strengthening school climate.
The records I requested did not include social workers or psychologists, who may also help students who are struggling academically or emotionally.
However, in Chicago, New York, and Houston, three districts that provided the number of social workers, even adding them in did not alter the big picture. Each still employed more security staff than school counselors and social workers combined.