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KC Public Schools awarded $2.5 million grant to help students tackle trauma

KCPS family empowermenet center.jpg
Posted at 9:43 PM, Jan 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 23:23:47-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When an elementary school student started missing school and having an "attitude" in class, Travanna Alexzander-Toney could have assumed the worse.

Instead, the Kansas City Public Schools clinician started asking questions. The answer she discovered was "heartbreaking."

"The (student's) family was homeless and there was a lack of transportation," Alexzander-Toney said. "They didn't know where they were going to sleep at each night. Just those worries about if she was going to have a bed to sleep in that night or sleep in a car was really bothering her."

According to the district, about half of the students in the district deal with adverse childhood experiences, something a new multi-million grant with help staff address. Gun violence, homelessness and domestic violence are just some of the traumatic situations students deal with on a daily basis.

"When students are faced with adverse childhood experiences it affects their ability to focus in the classroom," Dr. Lateshia Woodley, the executive director for Student Support Services at KCPS, said.

To combat this trauma, the district hired clinicians, like Alexzander-Toney, to identify students who have been exposed to adverse experiences. The clinicians provide support and resources to address the students' physical, mental and emotional wellness.

"It's very rare that a student wakes up and says, 'I am going to go to school today and cause a big disruption,'" Alexzander-Toney said. "We need to be seen as the individuals they see consistently in the school and cognitively say, 'I wonder what happened or what is going on that influenced these kids,.'"

The district recently found out it will receive a $2.5 million federal grant to amplify and enhance its trauma-informed school care. The money will help add clinicians at more schools.

"We want to make sure our kids are safe, supported, challenged and we want to make sure we are focusing on the whole child," Woodley said.