Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director, Kentucky Youth Advocates
LOUISVILLE, KY – Senate Education Chairman Max Wise and the Kentucky General Assembly have a track record of pragmatically approaching the complex issue of safety of students in schools. In 2019, the School Safety and Resiliency Act thoughtfully balanced the well-being of students with their physical safety by prioritizing access to mental health services and promoting trauma-informed environments. During this time of heightened social and emotional needs, schools are needing to further elevate their efforts to identify signs of stress, anxiety, and depression and to respond appropriately.
Senate Bill 102, championed by Senator Wise and passed today by the Senate Education Committee, continues the good work of the School Safety and Resiliency Act by requiring schools to provide a yearly census of school-based mental health providers to determine if the ratios of providers to students is meeting the mark. We thank Senator Wise and celebrate SB 102’s passage, as this measure takes steps needed to help address the Commonwealth’s high rate of Adverse Childhood Experiences.
In contrast to this necessary and research-backed focus on student mental health and well-being, we see a series of bills being discussed by the legislature that could ultimately undermine the impact of the School Safety and Resiliency Act. Instead of limiting local school boards’ decisions when it comes to employing School Resource Officers, let’s allow districts to uphold that decision for what’s best for their students. And instead of focusing funding requests on safety personnel and programming, let’s boost funds to attract qualified mental health practitioners in a sustainable, equitable manner.
If the premise is to employ trained adults within schools to promote safety, then the focus must be on building positive connections with students. All Kentucky children deserve a safe, supportive – trauma-informed – environment in which to learn. We cannot underestimate the profound impact that a focused approach that strengthens mental and behavioral health supports within schools and connects students with caring adults will have on Kentucky’s young people and their futures.
Stay up-to-date on Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priorities and other bills that are good for kids on our Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker.
About Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at www.kyyouth.org.