Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman says adults have talked a lot about how the pandemic has impacted the mental health of K-12 students.
What’s too often missing, she adds, is the voices of the students themselves.
As part of an effort to reverse that trend, Coleman was in Bowling Green Wednesday for the first in a series of in-person and virtual meetings with students across the state designed to give young people the opportunity to express how they’re struggling under the weight of the uncertainty, anxiety, and stress related to COVID-19.
“We’ve heard a lot of talk over the last couple of years about mental health and how it’s affecting students. But we haven’t heard from students. It’s been an adult’s interpretation, or assumption, of how students feel, and why they feel that way, and how to help them,” Coleman told WKU Public Radio.
“The whole notion around these mental health summits is to lift up our students’ voices. They are the ones who’ve experienced some really tough times during some of the toughest years of their lives, in middle and high school. The goal is to hear from them, and take the themes and the challenges that we see repeated and actually attempt to turn that into policy and law.”
Some of the other areas of the state where students will be asked for input include Princeton, Louisville, Morehead, and Henry County.
Coleman also reiterated her and Gov. Andy Beshear’s support for a statewide mask mandate for public schools and childcare centers. Kentucky lawmakers are meeting in Frankfort for a special legislative session devoted largely to the state’s COVID-19 response.
Republican lawmakers are advancing a bill that would repeal a statewide mask mandate for public schools. Some lawmakers have argued masking policies are best left to individual school districts to decide.
Lt. Gov. Coleman said enforcement of mask policies inside school buildings has a big impact on the community, beyond students and staff.
“These decisions don’t just affect the people in the building,” Coleman said. “They affect the families of the people in the building go home to, both young and old. As the state that leads the nation in children being raised by their grandparents, with a virus that has very clearly attacked the older generation, with kids 12 and under unable to be vaccinated yet, the mask mandate is in place for a reason.”
You can hear more of Lt. Gov. Coleman’s conversation with WKU Public Radio by clicking the Listen button above.