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Area School Board Members Ask for Funding to Hire Mental Health Counselors

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Charlottesville and Albemarle want to put an emphasis on school safety Charlottesville and Albemarle want to put an emphasis on school safety
David Toscano David Toscano
Creigh Deeds Creigh Deeds
Steve Landes Steve Landes
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

School board members from Charlottesville and Albemarle County are asking for action from their government representatives.

Both districts want an emphasis to be put on school safety in the upcoming legislative season. Members of both school boards are asking for funding to hire mental health counselors.

Charlottesville representatives say school safety and positive mental health also means banning hate symbols in schools.

“We can try to help at the state level,” Delegate David Toscano, who represents the 57th District, said. “Well, try to help at the state level, but ultimately it’s going to come back to the locality.”

Charlottesville's school board and the Hate Free School Coalition are calling on state lawmakers to keep students safe by helping to address hate symbols in the dress code.

“l think if folks in the local division want to try to deal with this hate speech issue, which is really important, they’ll figure out a way to do it locally,” Toscano said.

Lawmakers suggested reaching out to the attorney general and board of education.

State Senator Creigh Deeds suggested working around the problem without legislation.

“I think, number one, you gotta find out how you can change the school board association - state school board guidance in that area, because this isn’t really an area of code and I don’t think you’re gonna be able to change the law and to prevent Confederate flags to be worn on people’s garbs statewide,” Deeds said.

School leaders say those symbols play a large part in students’ mental health.

That mental health was a focus when lawmakers met later in the day on Friday, October 5, with Albemarle County's school board.

“The most important thing I think that we’re looking at is how we can try to provide student services early so that they don't act out from a standpoint of suicide for themselves or act out violently against other folks,” Delegate Steve Landes, who represents the 25th District, said.

Both districts are prioritizing funding to support mental health services in their schools.

“We have to have a situation where we have a proper ratio of counselors, mental health counselors, in schools and that they have plenty of time to do actual counseling to talk with young people,” Deeds said. “You know, the worst thing to occur is for a young person, old person, any person to be in crisis and not be able to get help.”

Lawmakers say that they plan to keep mental health services as a priority during the legislative season. How the attorney general might advise the Charlottesville City School Board remains to be seen.