CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — A bill is moving through the West Virginia legislature with the goal of improving the safety of school children by improving counseling at public schools. School resources are stretched to the limit, and now, that includes counselors.

Lawmakers are now considering House Bill 2832. It would more specifically define the duties of school counselors, including what types of duties are appropriate or inappropriate for them to do. For example, during COVID-19 many counselors were pulled from their normal duties, to perform other job functions within schools.

The legislation would more accurately sum up their job descriptions.

“The concern is we feel that the counselors don’t have enough time to do the jobs they are supposed to do with counseling students. They are being given a lot more administrative duties to do, which takes away constructive time that they could counsel,” said Del. Joe Ellington, (R) Mercer – Education Committee Chair.

“Ever since the pandemic, we’ve had issues with school counselors being pulled from their duties, to plug the gaps in school classrooms and wherever else they’re needed and that’s taking them away from the duties that they need to be doing on a daily basis,” said Del. Elliott Pritt (D) Fayette and a classroom teacher.

“Our counselors many times, become overloaded with paperwork like our teachers do. And our counselors need to be freed up,” said Fred Albert, President of the West Virginia Federation of Teachers, West Virginia chapter.

Delegates say the new bill is not directly related to the case of former Kanawha County School counselor Todd Roatsey, who was sentenced to prison in December for sending sexually explicit materials to minor students. But lawmakers say if the new guidelines improve the safety of students in counseling, then they are well worth it.

A study by the state’s two teachers’ unions indicates that hiring more counselors, mental health professionals and nurses was the third-highest priority according to a recent survey.