A group of Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts students have made an impassioned plea to save the job of a student support officer who has ‘’helped them greatly with their mental health issues’’.
The group this week handed a petition signed by over 600 students calling on WHSPA to renew the contract of Michelle Montgomery.
Letters of support for Ms Montgomery, written by ‘’concerned parents and students’’, which the Mercury has seen, were also handed to school principal Paul Ryan.
Sophie Hooper, 15 wrote that Ms Montgomery helped her come out to her family about her personal issues.
‘’I would never have had the strength and courage to tell my family without Michelle by my side helping me,’’ Sophie wrote.
‘’But what really saddens me is that this happens to so many children at this school and all of which seek help from Michelle.
With Michelle leaving how many students are now going to have to suffer in silence...- Sophie Hooper
‘’With Michelle leaving how many students are now going to have to suffer in silence because the one person they felt most comfortable talking to is leaving.
‘’People are constantly told to gain strength and open up about depression and their mental health issues to someone they trust to get help, and yet the person I and so many other people trust and talk to, you take away.’’
A Department of Education spokesperson said the school had yet to make a decision about Ms Montgomery’s temporary contract position for 2018.
A decision will be made later this term about this and other temporary contract positions after a full review of the needs of students for 2018.
But Sophie and fellow Year 10 students Alex Pieper, Amy Karlou and Leon Lippe were adamant the two counsellors employed by WHSPA were not enough to deal with the number of students who need their help.
‘’More than half the school have signed this petition because they know Michelle is always available to help,’’ Sophie said.
‘’In this day and age you would think that the school would be doing more to help teenagers and employ more mental health workers, not get rid of the person who is doing the most to help.’’
Parents the Mercury spoke to supported the students’ ‘’brave stance’’ and encouraged the school to renew Ms Montgomery’s contract.