Oklahoma bill focusing on student mental health moving through legislature

Miami educators hoping to see it pass

MIAMI, Okla. – Even with running between four different schools, Peyton Westmoreland is right where she wants to be.

“I love it,” says Westmoreland.

She’s the social worker for the Miami School District and works to connect parents and students with all kinds of recourses.

“They need help with resources just trying to figure out the DHS system, how to get on Sooner Care, how to get food stamps,” says Westmoreland.

But one of the greatest needs right now is Mental Health professionals for students.

“Our kids need someone to talk to and someone just to reassure them that things are gonna be okay,” says Westmoreland.

“We all know that if a student’s basic needs aren’t being met, then they can’t learn in the classroom,” says Miami Schools Superintendent Jeremy Hogan.

A bill moving through the Oklahoma legislature is being pushed by lawmakers to do just that.

Oklahoma House Bill 2980 would set a lot of guidelines for school counselors.

But perhaps most importantly. it reduces the recommended ration of students to counselors from 500 to one, to 250 to one.

That is if a school has the recourses to afford it.

“Most every site would have a counselor if this legislation passes and the funding’s there. I think in a community like ours it’s a game-changer, to be honest with you. But with that also comes we also need the funding to help us get there,” says Hogan.

If the bill does pass, Westmoreland thinks it would take some of the burden off of teachers, and ultimately help students.

“[Teachers] don’t have that one on one time, where the counselor can pull them out and visit with them and just help redirect them to get them back going to be back in the classroom to learn,” says Westmoreland.

The bill has passed the House Appropriations and Budget Education Subcommittee in an 11 to 1 vote.

Now the bill moves to the full House Appropriates and Budget Education Committee.

If signed into law, it will go into effect on November 1st, 2020.