Police officers routinely respond to calls about domestic disputes, which often involve parents having verbal and many times physical confrontations right in front of their children, which many times leaves their children traumatized by what they have seen and heard.
When those children get to school the next day, they are sometimes withdrawn or act out.
Many times, police would love to be able to give school officials, teachers and counselors a heads up about what the child has experienced so school officials can better help the child, but because of confidentiality limitations haven’t been able to do so.
That is changing, at least somewhat, in the Whitley County School District, Special Education Director Dr. Ralph Johnson told the Whitley County Board of Education during its June 10 monthly meeting.
Police officers still won’t be able to give school officials specifics about what has happened involving a child, but they will at least be able to give educators a heads up that a child has been going through something by telling school officials to “handle with care” a particular child or children.
This way, if the child seems depressed or upset, then a teacher might be able to direct the student to a school counselor or others, who might be able to help.
“This plan will help coordinate those services,” Johnson told the board prior to approval of the 2021-2022 trauma informed care plan.
The plan is also part of the school safety and resiliency act with the goal being to increase the sensitivity of the school community and the greater community to the effects that children may have when they experience an adverse childhood experience.
“Often times our children are experiencing things that we may not always be aware of or sensitized too, yet they come to class with some baggage or some concerns or some thoughts and feelings that need help being processed,” Johnson said.
“This plan will help us identify those students and lead them to treatment supports more readily, and it also allows us to network in a greater way with our community, including law enforcement.”
In addition, the board approved special education contracts for 2021-2022 with several groups, including Cumberland River Behavioral Health, Bluegrass Behavioral Health Group, Necco, and Intrust Healthcare.
Johnson noted that these four groups help provide mental health services to students at school during the school day, which keeps them from having to leave the building to get those services and minimizes the amount of class time they miss for counseling.
“It also allows us to improve our compliance with the school safety and resiliency act, and improve our student ratio with regards to access to mental health,” Johnson added.
Whitley County Superintendent John Siler noted that there is a shift in school safety from not just physical items, like better locks, doors and security cameras, to also address more mental health concerns among students.
“Dr. Johnson has gone out trying to increase the number of providers coming into our schools working with our kids,” Siler said adding he hopes some state funding comes to help pay for these services.
Also, during the meeting, the board:
• Approved the proposed 2021-2022 pay scale, which includes a 1 percent, across the board pay raise for school district employees.
• Authorized the application for the annual fruit and vegetable grant, which provides students with a free healthy fresh fruit or vegetable snack after lunch. Siler noted that the school district has receive this grant for several years. “It’s been a really good thing for the kids,” he added.
• Received an update on the Whitley County High School Career and Technical Education Building project. Siler noted that the district is currently accepting bids for the project. “We are excited. Hopefully, at the next board meeting, we will be approving someone’s bid,” Siler said.