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Survey Shows Challenges For Montgomery County Middle School Students

Youth Resiliency Partnership of Montgomery County

Almost half of all Montgomery County middle school students grapple with the challenges of growing up with divorced parents, and a quarter have a parent or other adult at home who’s gone to jail or prison.

That’s according to student responses to the ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences, survey. The questionnaire, which asks children to answer a series of questions about issues like parental divorce, physical and emotional abuse, and economic hardship, was administered in March by the Youth Resiliency Partnership of Montgomery County as part of an effort to gauge the status of students’ mental health.  

A higher score on the ACEs test puts students at greater risk for ongoing mental and physical health issues. One in four middle school students in Montgomery County who took the survey indicate they have experienced three or more such challenges in their life.

“Kids come to school with so much baggage, and then they get to school and they have a blow-up, or they’re failing all their classes—there’s something that’s really a symptom of what else is going on in their lives,” says Crawfordsville Community Schools health services coordinator Chris Amidon.

Amidon says the number of students who seek care from her throughout the day has increased in the past five years, and that even common ailments like headaches and stomach pain can be rooted in deeper issues happening at home.

“When I look back at some of the kids I interacted with in my first few years, I didn’t really realize that was what was behind some of their problems,” Amidon says.

Thirty-five percent of student respondents reported no adverse childhood experiences, and twenty-five percent reported 1.

Amidon says many schools are struggling to help larger numbers of students who struggle with mental health challenges which, unless they’re handled early on, can have a negative impact into adulthood.

Nineteen school corporations from eight counties were awarded a grant earlier this year from North Central Health Services to assist with planning programming and curriculum geared towards helping students and educators tackle mental health concerns. The data gathered from the ACEs test will help shape the response in Montgomery County.

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