This year, Kentucky public schools started to look a lot like they did before the pandemic hit. Most districts returned to in-person classes, masks were optional, and events like sports, graduations and plays took place as they had before COVID-19. But for many of our students, the challenges they continue to face are just as dangerous, but far less obvious.
Across the Commonwealth, as across the country, students are facing a mental health crisis. According to the 2022 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, about 1 in 6 Kentucky kids face anxiety or depression, as family issues, economic stressors, community events and lingering effects of the pandemic continue to take a toll. Those factors are having a profound, and deadly, impact on children.
Plainly put: thousands of our children are struggling just to make it through the day. Students simply can’t focus on classwork when they’re depressed, insecure, or emotionally unstable. And the same can be said for school staff, who are often grappling with similar circumstances in their own lives, in addition to trying to manage their students’ conflicts. According to the 2020 Impact Kentucky Working Conditions Survey, 56 percent of teachers who responded said they were extremely concerned with emotional well-being in the classroom.
The Commonwealth is falling short in its goal to make sure our children and teachers can be at their best every day. And having access to the mental health services and support they need in and outside the classroom must be a priority.
That’s why the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS) is urging lawmakers to put Kids First, and support initiatives that focus on student and staff wellness and safety.
We ask lawmakers to:
- Fully fund the School Safety and Resiliency Act of 2019, to provide for SROs and mental health professionals on each campus.
- Institute early intervention options prior to students entering the juvenile justice system.
- Increase access to mental health services for every student and ensure Kentucky families can obtain help when and where they need it.
More than ever, students and teachers are coming into schools carrying more than just books and supplies. Let’s prioritize mental health and safety options so schools can continue to be a refuge where they can get the support they need to be a success in the classroom, and in life.
Find out how you can help here.