Educators across the United States report that there is a concerning trend happening in schools. There’s an increase in reports of violence among students and violence directed at students and school personnel, and it's a nationwide problem.
The American Psychological Association surveyed thousands of teachers, administrators and staff across the country while many schools were operating online or hybrid.
One-third of surveyed teachers reported they experienced at least one incident of verbal or threatening violence from students during COVID (e.g., verbal threats, cyber bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment). Over 40% of school administrators reported verbal or threatening violence from parents during COVID. All school stakeholders reported significant verbal or threatening victimization from students, parents, colleagues, and administrators.
Unfortunately, even as we are slowly returning to a new normal post-Covid, the uptick in violence shows no signs of slowdown. Mental illness plays a part. Students have dealt with isolation, helplessness and are having troubles navigating the world, all which can result in violent responses directed toward their peers, teachers, and families.
The Technology Switch
During the pandemic, students and educators alike were thrust into a virtual world of learning. Countless hours spent in front of a screen naturally lead to students utilizing technology to socialize as well. While students have always used social media and technology, the isolating circumstances during the pandemic lead to a significant increase.
According to Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, this abundant use of social media has added an entirely new safety dimension for law enforcement and school administrators. In addition, the stress caused by learning loss is also working against our students. Their lives have been completely interrupted, in ways that no living adult could possibly understand as we have never experienced what our youth has just gone through and is continuing to go through.
We need to be having a conversation about how we can come together as a community to help our children. With 69% of educators considering a transfer or quitting altogether, it becomes obvious that we all need to contribute to the solutions rather than place the burden solely at the feet of educators and school staff. So what can parents do to help their child avoid violent behavior?
Look at your children’s technology use a little bit closer - Kids will be kids, but rumors and threats that once took days to spread, now spread in minutes. This is not only upsetting for large groups of students, it causes a complete upheaval of the school safety ecosystem as every threat must be taken seriously. Set usage limits and consider monitoring their accounts.
Pay attention to patterns of behavior - If your child seems moodier than normal, is isolating themselves, or just acts differently then give them a soft place to land by asking them what is wrong. Be honest and express that you see a change and just want to check in on their well-being. If the communication is not received well at first, try again. Be consistent and lovingly persistent.
Explain the importance of mental health - with so much focus on "avoiding Covid" many have lost sight of caring for our mental health. Kids need to understand that random feelings of hopelessness, anger, and stress can all be perfectly normal when recovering from a trauma. Rest assured, what our kids went through with Covid restrictions qualifies as a trauma for us all, but especially for young minds.
Be aware of risk factors for your child - A combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of youth violence.
Encourage physical activity and exercise - Regular exercise improves overall health, but also mental health.
As we navigate the waters of the pandemic fallout and the resulting mental health consequences, we must understand that we all face a battle we have never encountered before. The signs are there, we are facing a crisis with our kids. The NASCPC can help your school bring together the necessary resources to make a difference today.
PARENTS, reach out to us here if you would like to connect us to your school.
SCHOOLS, connect with us here if you would like an evaluation of your school.
MEMBERS, click here to connect with us on collaborating to make a difference.