Thursday, June 1, 2023
Misbehavior appears to be associated with pandemic-era school closures and their length. The EdWeek article reported that “districts in which nearly all learning was remote or hybrid in 2020-21” saw “51 percent of principals and district leaders report rising rates of student threats of violence,” while the proportion was lower for schools that had more in-person instruction. Though correlation does not equal causation, social isolation and sudden increases in screen time seem to have combined with background mental-health problems and broader social pathologies to aggravate behavioral issues that predated the pandemic.
Indeed, poor student behavior before the pandemic may have been an under-discussed driver of prolonged school closures. In March 2020, teachers suddenly found themselves freed from the exhausting, frustrating, and occasionally frightening need to manage students’ behavior. While many teachers will admit that Zoom school was awful, it had one major benefit: a new behavior-management tool—the mute button.
Yet the behaviors that many teachers and administrators were relieved to avoid are now significantly worse. In Newport News, Virginia, a teacher who was shot by a six-year-old student is suing the district and the school board because administrators had been told the child had brought a gun to school before but did not intervene. In Salem, Oregon, teachers are suing the Salem-Keizer district and the Oregon Department of Education for failing to “take action to protect employees from students known to have violence issues.” They have documented more than 1,000 incidents where teachers were harmed. An eighth-grader at a Portland middle school, where schools were effectively closed for 18 months, recently testified to the school board: “Over a third of my classes are taught by subs instead of full-time teachers and many of the classes watch movies all day or do nothing that looks like learning.”