Jessamine County Schools
Safety Information Series
Part 6 of 6
Mental Health and Supportive Services
Mental health is an essential part of a child’s overall well-being and our proactive approach to address school safety is closely linked to mental health services and meeting the needs of our most vulnerable students. Jessamine County Schools has a comprehensive district-wide approach to facilitate collaboration and build a multi-tiered system of supports for our students. This supportive network ensures that student needs are met in a timely and appropriate manner and offers a strong foundation to address prevention, early-intervention, and healthy habits for mental well-being.
JCS has an incredible team of twenty-four school counselors and psychologists that support students’ ability to learn and teachers’ ability to teach. These uniquely qualified members of our school teams apply expertise in mental health, behavior, and learning to help students succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. These professionals, along with our district’s four social workers, partner with families, teachers, and administrators to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments and strengthen connections between home, school, and the community. In order to expand the availability of services to our students, our district also partners with three local mental health agencies to provide additional services to students in all of our schools. This collaboration allows for enhanced accessibility of services, providing additional time and attention for students that may need extra assistance.
JCS Family Resource Centers, at the elementary level, and Youth Service Centers, at the secondary level, (together, FRYSC) provide a wealth of support for students and their families through vital programs, services, and referrals. Each center offers unique programs and services to serve the special needs of their student populations, with the goal of removing barriers to learning and enhancing student academic success. This support comes in many forms and can include training programs for families, health services, referrals for social services, substance abuse education and counseling, and family crisis and mental health counseling.
All Jessamine County elementary schools and both middle schools participate in the Positive Approach to Student Success (PASS) program, built on the belief that children with emotional and behavioral issues benefit academically, as well as behaviorally, from classroom participation with their peers. Through the PASS program, our staff serves these students in the general education setting, using individualized programming that incorporates best practices. Targeted, intensive instruction is combined with behavior monitoring and coaching support, helping students to develop self-management skills. Additional specialized programs at the high school level are also designed to assist older students with structure and supports to help students learn how to meet behavioral expectations.
Our district has been aggressive in seeking funding to enable us to provide as many supportive services as possible for our students to help ensure their success. Some of the grants that we have received include:
McKinney-Vento Homeless Grant
JCS is the recipient of a McKinney-Vento grant to serve homeless students, defined by the grant as those who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The program is designed to address the problems that homeless children and youth have traditionally faced in enrolling, attending, and succeeding in school. These students are guaranteed access to the educational and support services that they need to be successful in school and in life.
Migrant Education Program Grant
A Migrant Education Program grant has also been obtained by our district, offering similar types of support to children of migratory agricultural workers. These students are often affected by repeated moves, disruption in schooling, poverty, health needs, social isolation, and language barriers. In order to reduce the impact of these factors on students, they are provided with appropriate educational and supportive services that address their needs in a coordinated manner.
Trauma-Informed Care Framework Training Grant
Our district is in the process of implementing a treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma on our students. This system, called Trauma Informed Care, emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety and helps survivors rebuild a sense of control and empowerment. Through a grant that we have received, training will be provided for 140 JCS staff members to help them become “trauma-informed”, teaching them to provide support and understanding for our students who have experienced trauma. Often, trauma survivors can be re-traumatized by well-meaning caregivers, including school personnel. This training will better enable JCS staff to determine the best course of action to respond to a students’ individual situation and react appropriately and compassionately.
Our schools utilize social-emotional learning programs to help students to succeed academically as well as socially. Children and youth benefit immensely from a well-developed set of social-emotional skills, particularly during times of stress and anxiety. Social-emotional skills help us, as children, and also later as adults, to be persistent when we’re faced with a challenge, to effectively seek help when we need it, and to be thoughtful in our actions. This crucial set of skills helps us to recognize and control our emotions, make good choices about our behavior, recognize others’ perspectives, and enables us to build and maintain healthy relationships.
While all of our schools have programs in place to support student mental well-being, two of our schools are uniquely designed to provide more intensive instruction that is embedded into the curriculum. The Providence School, recently named by the Kentucky Department of Education as a “School of Distinction,” utilizes the Discovery Program to provide students with a toolbox for success through a student-centered, skill-based program designed to teach students positive social skills. The program is delivered by direct instruction, modeling, role playing and peer and teacher feedback and prepares students to effectively work in a group, communicate, resolve conflict, and manage their emotions. Our newest school, Ashgrove Academy, also utilizes a sequential skills curriculum to help teach, practice, and give feedback on specific positive social skills. Through these support systems for all students, both schools seek to develop a strong sense of community and reinforce a healthy and positive school culture.
Efforts to ensure school safety, enhance mental well-being, and optimize learning are closely related endeavors. Comprehensive mental health and supportive services are a critical component of our proactive safety plan. These services also have the power to change students’ lives, enhancing happiness, productivity, and success.