Practicing School Psychology In A Pandemic

Roman Siger


For many Americans during the pandemic, the need to work has been reduced due to stimulus checks. But for people who specialize in working with mental health, the need to work has skyrocketed.  

Jessica Siger, school psychologist at Medford middle school, knows all about the effects the pandemic has had on students. 

“I’ve been getting a lot of requests to do behavior evaluations and the complexity of this year is so much different than in the past,” said Siger.

As a school psychologist, Siger is constantly working with kids in the special education program, and she enjoys it.

“I find that it’s important that children have a positive experience in school,” said Siger.

Over the years she’s worked multiple levels of jobs to get to where she is today.

“I started off in Evergreen in Washington and then I was there for four years in elementary and then I moved to California and I worked two years for the LA County Office of Education working in kind of self contained classrooms of kids with emotional disabilities or kids with pretty severe handicaps. And now I work K through 12,” said Siger.

Through her many years of experience with the United States public education system, she has seen the drawbacks and advantages.

“I think we need to do a major shift in how we look at discipline with children who are struggling. And there’s just not a lot of support for providing children with punishment as a way to change behavior,” said Siger.

After hundreds of student evaluations, Siger has seen what punishment really does to students.

“Punishment or exclusion as a way to deal with behavior causes more problems than it helps because it makes kids feel very bad about themselves and makes them feel unwanted and it blames the child versus blaming the system,” said Siger.

Siger now wants to see a change in priorities in the special education system.

“We’re so focused on getting sued in the special ed system that we spend a lot of our time looking good, you know, accountability instead of instruction,” said Siger. 

But with the pandemic still around, her job hasn’t gotten easier, and her goals of changing the system have had to be temporarily set aside.

“Also school psyches as a profession, we are getting asked to do more and more things every year because there’s such a need for it, for example, like risk assessments,” said Siger.

A usual assessment goes as follows:

You have to start by identifying the disability

“The main ones are looking at other health impairments. So that’s like a medical health impairment or an emotional disability or learning disability. Those are kind of the main three and then intellectual disability,” said Siger.

Next Siger observes the students in school and conducts tests.

“Then there’s writing skills and there’s observations and the latest thing that we’re doing now is a functional behavioral assessment. With most kids who have emotional struggles we try to figure out the function of the behaviors which is very complicated, time consuming, but important,” said Siger.

Finally, Siger makes the complicated decision of diagnosing a student.

“We have to be very careful about… the label. You need to label a student who has a disability. That’s a scary thought, right to think, Oh, I’m at now I’m a kid with a disability… Nobody wants to see themselves as different or disabled,” said Siger.

Through the years she has spent as a school psychologist, Jessica Siger has helped hundreds of kids with disabilities get by in the American school system, and she doesn’t plan on stopping. When the pandemic comes to an end, she can focus on making the special education