Schools confront a wave of student misbehavior, driven by months of remote learning
Government in charge of education a conflict of interest: Sorbo
Author Sam Sorbo discusses compensation for homeschooling parents on ‘Making Money.’
School districts across the U.S. say they are seeing a surge of student misbehavior in the return to in-person learning, after months of closures and disruptions due to the pandemic.
In the hallway between classes one afternoon this fall at Southwood High School in Shreveport, LA., two boys exchanged words. All at once, they jumped at each other, witnesses said. Dozens of other students joined and they all fell into a heap, kicking and punching, until teachers pulled them apart.
The fight was one in a series of brawls in Southwood’s courtyards and hallways on three subsequent days that led to 23 students being arrested and expelled.
School officials say they had never seen anything like it before at Southwood, known for its Cowboys football team, its biotechnology program and its scenic location on a former cattle ranch. The academically strong school has a 99% graduation rate for its student body of more than 1,600.
OXFORD HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVORS' PARENTS SUE DISTRICT FOR 'RECKLESS DISREGARD' OF STUDENTS' SAFETY
"We knew it was going to be a problem with kids transitioning back from virtual, because they haven’t been in school for a couple of years," said Southwood’s principal, Kim Pendleton. "You have eighth-graders that are now 10th-graders or seventh-graders that are now ninth-graders, and no time to really acclimate."
Schools have seen an increase in both minor incidents, like students talking in class, and more serious issues, such as fights and gun possession. In Dallas, disruptive classroom incidents have tripled this year compared with pre-pandemic levels, school officials said. The Albuquerque, N.M., superintendent sent a letter to parents warning of a "rise in violence and unacceptable behaviors posted to social media" that have disrupted classes. The National Association of School Resource Officers said it has seen a rise in gun-related incidents in schools.
Some schools are responding to the disciplinary problems by dispatching more staffers to patrol school grounds or by hiring more counselors. Others are reducing student suspensions, or in Dallas, eliminating them altogether in favor of counseling. Some districts have enacted what they call mental-health days, closing schools around holidays to give students and administrators a break. Peoria, Ill., is planning a special school that would be dedicated to students with issues caused by the pandemic.
Educators at disadvantaged schools, often in low-income neighborhoods, said they had anticipated students would return to in-person learning with mental-health scars from Covid-19. The issues are also coming up at schools that previously had few serious incidents, such as Southwood.
Parents in the relatively affluent suburb of Cherry Creek, Colo., outside Denver, said they were surprised to receive a letter from their school district in November that expressed concern over recent increases in the number of behavioral incidents involving high-school students.
"On-campus behavior issues include students treating each other and adults disrespectfully in and out of class in addition to leaving trash in halls, cafeterias, and outdoor spaces," according to the letter sent to families from Cherry Creek High School. The letter asked parents to speak to their children about appropriate behavior and noted that incidents of misbehavior were occurring off-campus as well.
SHERIFF: NORTH CAROLINA STUDENT WAS CARRYING AK-47 ON SCHOOL BUS
The last school year that wasn’t affected by Covid-19 was 2018-19—three years ago—which has in part hurt routines, discipline and social skills, officials said.
"For some of our students, they really have never experienced a ‘normal’ year of high school," said Cherry Creek district spokeswoman Abbe Smith.
Peter Faustino, a school psychologist in New York who serves on the board of directors for the National Association of School Psychologists, said school psychologists across the country have seen roughly the same volume of mental-health complaints and behavioral issues in the first three months of the school year that used to occur in an entire academic year.
"I think the pandemic was like an earthquake and I think we are seeing that tidal wave hit shore," he said.