JCPS hires team of mental health counselors to help students dea - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS hires team of mental health counselors to help students deal with trauma

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools has hired a new team to help its most vulnerable students.

One of those team members is Jenni Garmon. In her first month on the job, Garmon has met with students who have been raped, witnessed murders, witnessed starvation, had family members disappear and seen the kind of trauma that can scar a child for life.

Garmon is one of the new JCPS mental health counselors.

"It's really hard, but I like it," she said. "I like a challenge."

She works at the ESL Newcomer Academy. This school is made up of child refugees, many from third-world countries living in Louisville without parents.

"I have clients that I see weekly in my office and we talk about their trauma, and we talk about coping," she said. "We talk about how being here is really hard and how to attempt some things to make it easier."

Issues of anxiety, anger, and depression go far beyond this campus. School leaders say it's being seen among students throughout the district and leads to meltdowns in the classroom

Chris Schmidt works at Farnsley Middle School, where he says he talks to students who are dealing with abuse and domestic violence situations.

"School is the most stable environment for them in their daily routine," Schmidt said. "They release those emotions that are not safe to release at home."

He compares it to the recent video of Ray Rice knocking his girlfriend out in an elevator.

"Some of these kids are watching that play out in their own home," Schmidt said. "So imagine living that and being expected to come to school and be a model student."

JCPS hired 15 of these mental health counselors and put them in the schools with the biggest need. The goal is to see fewer kids in the principal's office and keep more in the classroom. It's part of the district's larger effort to raise test scores.

The district doesn't have tangible data to see if it's working, yet though the people on the ground count every success story.

"I have a kiddo in mind as I talk to you who I know, the first week of school, everyday, a teacher was saying something to him," Garmon said. "He's doing much better already."

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