BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Some Louisiana lawmakers are trying to tackle the issue they call a “mental health crisis” for students. One task force took a closer look at the data to help create solutions to help children.

The Student Behavior, Mental Health, and Discipline Task Force was created after lawmakers raised concerns with Rep. C. Denise Marcelle’s bill to evaluate students for mental health issues before punishing them.

Rep. Marcelle said she wants to prioritize student mental health as she sees more and more students struggling with it and being expelled or suspended from school. With students failing or being kicked out of school, she said it adds to the crime issues around Louisiana. 

“We can actually do something to address it. Knowing it is one thing, number 47, 48, 49th, or 50th out of all the United States is terrible. So the question becomes what do we do to get better outcomes for our children,” Rep. Marcelle said.

Members of different student health agencies stated there is a student mental health crisis going on that dates before the pandemic and has only gotten worse.

“We don’t have bad kids, our kids are not worse than kids in any other place. But the conditions, the environment that they’re growing up in tends to be somewhat undesirable,” said Alma Sterwart Allen, president of Louisiana Center for Health Equity.

With Louisiana’s amount of poverty and other challenges, studies show many kids are dealing with trauma that leads to them acting out in school.

“Whether the social economic impact. The fact their parents are divorced, domestic violence, all the things that are attributing to the discipline issues is what we’re listening to today,” Rep. Marcelle said.

She wants to compile the data showcasing the severity of the issue so she can work with the legislature to find money to invest in intervention methods in schools. A major challenge is having a consistent program across all schools to help reach kids of all backgrounds. There is also a lack of volunteers to get to all the schools in the state to provide mental healthcare.

The task force is going to be finalizing the legislation for the next session in 2023 this January at their final meeting.