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Parents Say Bus Incident Shows Importance Of Therapists In Franklin County School

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BUNN, N.C. — Some Franklin County parents say a change in mental health services may be behind a bus attack.

Two weeks ago, according to witnesses, a 15-year-old special-needs student stuck a girl with a hypodermic needle on a school bus. The county is pursuing the case in juvenile court. But parents fear this was not the end of the violence.

Several of the school parents have children with emotional problems who can function in classrooms but need on-the-spot counseling from time to time. But for the past three weeks in Franklin County, personal therapists have not been allowed in the schools.

The county has been working out a new plan with the area health department to control student access to counseling.

"There are parents that have called me," Yolanda Tant said. "Their children won't even go to school because their therapist is not back in."

Some educators have complained that therapists have had too much of a free hand, taking students out of class without notice.

But these parents feel left out of the changes being made.

"You can't make decisions about mental health without the parents' input," Tant said.

A Franklin County Schools representative says parents were not included in discussions because the new plan would not change their role or child's service. The focus of the plan is to control procedure -- how and when therapists can work with students during school hours.

Parent Laura Burt said there is no way to predict when her son may need to call his therapist.

"But he knows if he can call her, he is fine," she said.

The school system says students with emergency needs will always be served. But the parents of those students say the problems have to be dealt with before they become emergencies.

A Franklin County Schools representative said the new mental health plan was supposed to have been signed late Wednesday. When in place, qualified therapists will be allowed on campus, but they must check in with administration and try to work around class schedules if possible.

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