Education

Thousands of Jefferson County Public Schools students suffer traumas away from school that can harm their learning, including homelessness, domestic violence and crime.

School district officials brought these concerns to a Louisville Metro Council committee Wednesday at the request of 6th District Councilman David James, chair of the council’s public safety committee.

“I believe it is important for the committee to understand how the school system is dealing with various issues, including mental health of students and behavior,” he said.

More than 6,400 students are considered homeless, while nearly 6,100 students are being raised by grandparents, according to data provided by the school district.

About 2,000 students are exposed to domestic violence incidents that require a police response, and about 1,500 more live in a home where domestic violence may not prompt a call for police, yet still leads to an emergency protective order, according to district data.

And in the past 10 months, more than 3,000 JCPS students have been referred to psychiatric hospitalizations.

These experiences can lead students to act out in school and in their communities, said Joe Bargione, lead psychologist for the school district. He called on legislators to help by crafting policies that address the needs of entire families.

“Don’t just isolate the child,” he said.

Bargione said district officials are working to provide trauma-based training to schools. To date, nearly 1,000 district employees are trained to address trauma. The training allows educators and staffers to help students deal with trauma, not necessarily avoid it, he noted.

The goal, Bargione said, is to build resiliency.

“We’re trying to teach them ways to build those critical thinking skills, responsibility, self-control, empathy,” he said. “Because those are the kinds of skills those children will need as they move into adulthood.”

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.