Michigan ranks 49th in student to counselor ratio with shortage having lasting impact

The tragedy at Oxford High School and emotional aftermath in the community has put a spotlight back the topic of mental health — primarily for our youngest Michiganders.

Counselors were called in to help students of all grade levels cope with the deadly mass shooting.

"Truly, the school counselor can be the heart of the building that impacts the entire child," said Terri Tchorzynski.

FOX 2 has learned school counselors aren’t as readily available in school districts around the state. Michigan ranks 49th out of 50 states in student to counselor ratio, with 671 students for every one school counselor.

FOX 2: "Based on what we saw out of Oxford, is there a hope that there will be some urgency on getting more counselors in schools?"

"I think, I want to say that hope started when we (began to) see the increased needs of our students during the pandemic," she said

Terri Tchorzynski is president of the Michigan Schools Counselor Association. She says the state has money to add more counselors and social workers, but school districts aren’t mandated to do so.

Tchorzynski believes the addition could save lives.

"Because of the way our position is positioned in the school, in regards of supporting all students within the school, we really are critical in the proactive development of students. So they are not in this position where they feel they have to do harm to themselves or others," she said.

FOX 2 caught up with a high school junior, who backs the move to put more counselors in Michigan schools.

"We met with counselors my freshman year," said Guneet Sandhu."My counselor is one of the better ones, because my friends I know, they have tried to contact their counselors and they don't (hear) back. So they could be more attentive. But besides that, there is not much more you can do."

FOX 2 received an email statement from State Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield) who is an advocate for getting more counselors in schools.

She says, "Before tragedy even strikes as we have recently seen here in our state, our students deserve to have a professional available in their schools that will equip them with the tools necessary to work through their emotional trauma."