JCPS crisis teams helping students cope with recent violence - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS crisis teams helping students cope with recent violence

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Crisis teams have been called out to a number of JCPS schools, including Meyzeek Middle, to help students cope with recent violence (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Crisis teams have been called out to a number of JCPS schools, including Meyzeek Middle, to help students cope with recent violence (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
Troyvonte Hurt, 14, was shot and killed during a drive-by shooting on Wednesday. Troyvonte Hurt, 14, was shot and killed during a drive-by shooting on Wednesday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Amid the increase of shootings and homicides in Louisville, Jefferson County Public Schools has been asking "crisis teams" of counselors, psychologists and others to help students cope with the violence.

"We cannot brush these things under the rug, they have to be addressed," says Bethanie Opell, a JCPS school psychologist. "(Schools) are where the kids are and these crises affect them globally... it affects their attendance, it affects mental health, it affects their performance in the classroom."

Following the murder of 14-year-old Troyvonte Hurt on Wednesday, some principals across the district have requested additional support for their students. Hurt had attended Meyzeek Middle last year and was most recently a student at Minor Daniels Academy, but his death has affected a lot of kids at other schools.

"With the recent violence in our city, I have asked the district for support with grief counseling," reads a note that was sent to parents at some schools on Friday. "Several of our young people have been impacted and need help dealing with the recent events. Other schools in the district are implementing the same measures. We are all being proactive."

JCPS declined to provide specific details about how often the teams are being used, citing student safety and privacy concerns.

According to LMPD statistics, 288 people have been shot from January through July. Of that number, 43 are under the age of 18.

Hurt is the third teen under the age of 18 to die in gunfire in the past three months. On May 22, Larry Ordway, 14, and Maurice Gordon, 16, were stabbed, burned and left for dead. Three people have been charged in connection with their murder.

Opell says when a crisis occurs, it's imperative for the district's specially trained crisis teams -- which consist of counselors, psychologists, family resource coordinators and others -- to be able to respond immediately, often within hours.

"It cannot be business as usual when something like this happens," she said.

"We have found that a student will show up after a major crisis (when) you were pretty sure they wouldn’t be at school that day,' Opell said. "But they still show up, because school is safe and school is where they have somebody they know they can talk to who will help them."

To date, the district has about 350 people who are trained in PREPaRE crisis response -- a curriculum developed by the National Association of School Psychologists to help schools strengthen their crisis management plans and emergency response. 

Opell says the crisis teams respond to a wide variety of events that don't always involve a death.

"It could just be a traumatic event that a school feels it has the resources to support its staff or students," she said, adding that when an event happens and a team is needed, a message will go out to everyone who has been trained, asking them to respond if they can.

"The quicker the better, because we don’t want them to think we are not responding," she said. "It’s pretty much an all hands on deck, drop everything and go type of thing."

Opell says sometimes the teams will stay at a school for a few hours, others for a few days. 

She adds that many times, it's hard for kids to ask for help and in some cases, the crisis teams have to seek them out.

"The young kids are typically very willing to talk to us," Opell said. "The older kids, especially when it’s a murder, are very reluctant to talk to strangers."

Opell said the crisis teams "triage" each event, asking important questions such as "who saw it, who was close to this person, who has additional baggage that is similar that this might bring up memories for" and make a list of students and event staff members who may be impacted.

"We will pull them out or check on them," she said. "If they are doing OK, we don’t want to pull them, because that gives them the impression they can’t handle it on their own. We don’t necessarily want to do that, because that can do more harm then good."

Opell says when a student is murdered, it can generate "all kinds of feelings."

"Anger is one of the main things," she said. "They are just really angry, they ask why did this have to happen? It can really cause a shutdown...physically, emotionally, academically. And without the resources they need to bounce back, it can be very devastating."

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