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New Haven students push for more mental health counselors in school

New Haven students rally for mental health services
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 6:16 PM EDT
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NEW HAVEN, CT (WFSB) – New Haven students staged a walk out and protest Thursday morning, pushing for more mental health counselors and fewer police inside their school.

Students from different high schools here left school, gathered on the green and then made their way to the Board of Education’s Office to be heard.

Thursday’s protest was organized by the City Wide Youth Coalition in New Haven, with hundreds of students taking part and hitting the streets.

The big issue is a police presence in New Haven’s schools, specifically the school resource officers.

They argue a recommendation to phase them out hasn’t been followed and they feel they’d rather see additional social workers, counselors and nurses in their schools instead.

The district says, school resource officers provide safety, which is important in an urban school district, adding they have about six officers covering 10 high schools.

It adds that when it comes to funding, even if the district disinvested from the school resource officers, the savings wouldn’t be enough to enact the changes the student protestors are looking for.

Students and organizers feel strongly about this and that’s why they were out Thursday.

“We still don’t have the social workers we need, we still don’t have the mental health counseling we need. We don’t even have the alternatives to address conflict and mediation in schools, but we have cops. It’s almost like to our young people, they see if vividly, cops are a hammer and everything else is a nail,” said Addys Castillo, with the City Wide Youth Coalition.

“I think it was important today to let the board of education know, let the police know we are tired of the oppression, we’re tired of the harassment we’re facing and we’re tired of the false promises. We want justice and we want it now. We want SROs out of school,” said Akida Ouro-Adei, a high school junior.

In a statement the school district’s spokesperson says:

“We respect the students’ right to protest and we appreciate their concern for appropriate mental health services. The issue arises at a time when the district has substantially invested in school psychologists and social workers to address the stresses caused by the pandemic….To sustain that investment after the grants conclude would require funding from the city and the state, who together provide most of our operating budget.”

Spokesperson for New Haven Public Schools