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Counseling Has Its Place in School

June 14, 1990

After reading Margaret Wells' letter ("Gay Counseling in Schools Issue," Times, May 27), I became incensed because it so clearly reflects the xenophobic attitude that our society seems to be embracing.

As a public school educator I know that our students cannot begin to take in academic information if they are not physically and mentally cared for. I work in a middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhood and, on a daily basis, I witness the child who is dealing with emotionally taxing issues.

In my school district we have an EGO (Elementary Guidance Officer) Counseling Program for students experiencing stresses related to death, divorce, poor self-esteem, poor peer relations, etc. We have one such counselor and the number of students she services could probably be doubled. Why? Because sometimes the parents of these children won't deal with the above issues; sometimes the parents can't. This is where the public school system has stepped in. Teachers and counselors are often the only other adults that children can look to for support--and who has the right to turn away that child if they are in need of counseling? "We" don't, if the subject matter is mainstream (like death, divorce, etc.). And to deny a child counseling just exacerbates the frustrations that no one should have to endure because they are troubled in a way that is deemed different.

If gay counseling, like any other counseling, is done sensitively and professionally it serves the purpose for those who seek it. That in turn helps to create a whole person who is then ready for academic learning.

If Ms. Wells is so sure of what schools are supposed to be there for: "to teach academics, physical education and creativity," she should spend a week in a classroom of any grade level. She can witness how a student is affected when in a state of emotional unrest. When the student can't learn, it affects everyone.

Schools have inherited the job of picking up where parents leave off. We have to offer much more than "academics, physical education and creativity." And isn't part of creativity acceptance and tolerance of things that are different?

VIKI A. YAMASHITA

Long Beach

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