SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – On Wednesday, local students continue their efforts to ensure greater access to mental health services at Springfield Public Schools, as the start of the new school year quickly approaches.
Those students who want high school officials to make transparency on mental health spending. These students are part of the Pioneer Valley Project. They say not only is the budget unclear, but this crisis, they feel there is a lack of mental health support within the school system.
“If the district is going to claim to have everything we need, in terms of mental health services, they have to be transparent about where the money is going,” says Mzuri Mohamed, a graduate of the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy.
Current and former Springfield school students, rallying in front of the Springfield Public School offices, demanding transparency from school officials regarding how money is spent on mental health services.
The teenagers, who are part of the Pioneer Valley Project, sent a public records request to the City of Springfield in early June to get those answers. They tell 22News they have received a 561 page response to their request, but they say it did not include their request for Principal Budgets Submitted by the Principal in each of the district’s high schools, over the past two years.
PVP leaders say Superintendent of Schools Daniel Warwick estimated that about $30 million was spent last year on mental health services, but this report doesn’t make that clear. The Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Project, Tara Parrish, told 22News, “You can tell his budget from the district did not specify how high schools spent that part of the 30 million dollars that is the demand.”
In a statement to 22News, Warwick told us for the next school year that the school system is investing over $30 million to fund various mental health services, he continues to say, “We remain committed to transparency and participation, with systems such as Student Advisory Councils, PTOs and School Centered Decision-Making teams, in place for that. In addition, we have and will continue to comply with public records requests with responses consistent with legal requirements.”
The Pioneer Valley Project plans to appeal this public records request next week.
Kristina D’Amours is a reporter who has been part of the 22News staff since 2019. Follow Kristina on Twitter @KristinaD_WWLP and view her biography to see more of her work.