KARA advocates for the people, policies and programs
that improve the lives of abused and neglected children.
COVID is Hammering Children’s Mental Health
This is a collection of Education Week’s last 12 months of reporting on conditions in American schools today with attention to educating abused and neglected children. It’s a deep dive into what it means to be a teacher in America today.
This post is a draft of chapter 13 in KARA’s next book CHILDHOOD TRAUMA – AMERICA’S LEGACY.
Preface to post;
First a statement by this author (former volunteer County CASA Guardian ad Litem) about the experiences my caseload kids brought to school with them;
I learned how hard teaching my State Ward children is. It’s often more public health and safety than teaching. Many teachers spent half their day keeping my ACEs troubled children from traumatizing the classroom. Post COVID, about 250,000 youth did not return to school (HUFFPOST)
Most of my kids had mental health issues – many with multiple diagnosis. Almost half of them were on psychotropic medications.
They had all been abused by the most significant adult authority in their life (a parent). This triggers a distrust and fear of other adult authority figures. Police and teachers are high on that list.
My heart goes out to teachers. We are asking too much of you.
Early on, I witnessed terrible violence on two occasions. One of my (small for his age) 13-year-old boys left his teacher disabled and quitting teaching. The second time, a 13-year-old girl had her head smacked hard into a thick wooden banister to stop her from gouging out her teacher’s eyes while biting his face.
If I would have been the teacher in either case, the results would have been the same. Witnessing the violence pent up inside these small broken children sticks with you. I’ve learned to never block a child’s escape path as triggers to immediate pending violence are not apparent to the child or the adult. 10 percent of educators say they have been physically assaulted or attacked by a student or students in the past year.
Please share the information below with educators you know.
Change won’t come until more of us understand
what’s happening inside America’s classrooms.
If you have stories, comments or data that would add to this chapter please send a note to
Hello@invisiblechildren.org with Chapter 13 in the subject line
362 Nationwide School Counselors interviewed by the NY Times described how COVID is impacting children’s mental health and hammering education and child well-being.
Almost 90% are having trouble focusing on classwork,
Over 70% are breaking classroom rules,
The majority of students are skipping class, and having trouble
with time management and collaborating on schoolwork.
94% have signs of anxiety or depression,
88% are struggling with emotional expression,
67% have low self esteem, and over half of them have trouble with friends,
harassing peers on line, and physically fighting.
85% are chronically absent from school,
almost half of them are vandalizing school property,
38% bring drugs or alcohol to school &
3% bring guns to school – 11% bring other weapons to school.
Poor working conditions are a primary source of the teacher shortage phenomenon, argues a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. The problem isn’t primarily a lack of qualified teachers, it says, but a lack of incentives for those qualified workers to take grueling, underappreciated jobs.
When these problems persist behind the scenes, students suffer in the classroom, the report says. Workers in buildings get tired from going beyond their job duties to make up for missing colleagues or open positions. Students with disabilities and English learners miss out on crucial support services.
The days of widespread, pandemic-related school building shutdowns are long past, but school interruptions have continued. A school system in Illinois shut down for a day last month after 30 percent of staff, and between 25 and 30 percent of students, called out sick. A principal in Minnesota covered two kindergarten classrooms at once to fill staffing gaps. A handful of schools in places like Dayton, Ohio, and New York City have switched to remote learning mode on days when buildings wouldn’t be adequately staffed.
the number of college freshmen nationwide who intend to major in education has dropped by more than half in the last 50 years. In the early 1970s, between 10 percent and 13 percent of college freshmen had set their sights on teaching, according to data from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.
By 2018, that share had dropped to 4.3 percent—even as interest in other professions like social science, health, and business has stayed relatively steady.
The constant concerns over the teacher shortage or the recent study by Learning Policy Institute and the National Association of Secondary School Principals that showed 42 percent of principals have considered leaving the profession are glaring signs that we need to make changes to our daily lives in the classroom and our schools.
Would you recommend to a young person that they pursue a teaching career? Why or why not?
Here’s one result from a recent poll of teachers:
More than half of teachers said they likely wouldn’t advise their younger self to pursue a career in teaching.
: Teacher Job Satisfaction Appears to Hit an All-Time Low
In early 2022, only about half of teachers said they were satisfied with their jobs, and only 12 percent said they were “very satisfied.” In 2012, 39 percent were very satisfied, and in 2008, 62 percent were very satisfied.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a global think tank, reviewed average teacher compensation in 26 industrialized countries and compared it to average pay for other college graduates. The United States ranked dead-last on the list, with teachers on average making only 61 percent of what other college graduates make.
By contrast, in four of the other listed countries—Lithuania, Costa Rica, Portugal, and Latvia—teachers make more than what other college graduates make. And in countries like Sweden, Germany, and Australia, teacher compensation exceeds 80 percent of the average for other college graduates.
By the same token, a survey of the same countries shows that U.S. teachers work more hours per year—2,016—than in any of the others, narrowly edging out Chile, Switzerland, and Japan.
Educators see screen time worsening behavior and learning problems
The nonprofit Common Sense Media, which tracks children’s screen and technology use, reports that daily screen time has spiked since the pandemic. Tweens ages 8-12 now use digital devices more than five and a half hours a day, and teenagers now spend nearly eight hours and 40 minutes a day on screens—not counting school technology.
In part, that’s because the blue light exuded by many digital devices mimics bright sunlight and delays the release of melatonin, the chemical that regulates natural sleep cycles. Garrison said video games and social media that trigger reward mechanisms in the brain also make it more difficult for children to quiet their brain activity, reducing both the quality and quantity of the sleep they get. This, in turn, can make students more tired and irritable and less focused on learning the following day.
“Sleep isn’t actually always a valued goal for tweens and teens,” Garrison said in a briefing for the Children and Screens Institute of Digital Media and Child Development.
An EdWeek Research Center survey in April found that 1 in 5 educators say they’ve personally contracted long COVID. The condition can be especially challenging for teachers, who say it’s exceedingly difficult to work with these long-lasting symptoms.
Exhausting, Intense, Unsustainable
Micromanaged, Disrespectful, Retirement
NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS;
The Crime and Safety Surveys Program collects and reports data on crime, violence, and safety in U.S. elementary and secondary schools. The following statistics are from the School Crime and Safety topic area in the Condition of Education system of indicators. These indicators focus on topics such as school shootings; student and teacher victimization; fights, weapons, and illegal substances; and discipline, safety and security practices.
School-Associated Violent Deaths
From July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019, a total of 39 school-associated violent deaths1 occurred in the United States, including students, staff, and other nonstudent school-associated victims. Of these 39 school-associated violent deaths, 10 homicides and 3 suicides were of school-age youth (ages 5–18, also referred to as “youth” in this Fast Fact).2 Considering all persons, there were 29 homicides and 10 suicides. Between 1992–93 (when data collection began) and 2018–19, the number of school-associated violent deaths of all persons fluctuated, ranging from 32 to 63.
Nonfatal Student Victimization—Student Reports
From 2009 to 2020, the total victimization rate decreased for students ages 12–18, both at school and away from school.3 The total victimization rate at school decreased from 51 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2009 to 30 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2019. From 2019 to 2020, the total victimization rate at school continued to decrease to 11 victimizations per 1,000 students—a decrease of more than 60 percent.4 The total victimization rate away from school decreased from 33 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2009 to 20 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2019. The total victimization rate away from school in 2020 (15 victimizations per 1,000 students) was not statistically different from the rate in 2019.
Violence and Crime at School—School Reports
During the 2019–20 school year,5 77 percent of public schools recorded that one or more incidents of crime had taken place, amounting to 1.4 million incidents. This translates to a rate of 29 incidents per 1,000 students enrolled in 2019–20. Not all recorded incidents of crime were reported to sworn law enforcement. In 2019–20, some 47 percent of schools reported one or more incidents of crime to sworn law enforcement, amounting to 482,400 incidents, or 10 incidents per 1,000 students enrolled.
In 2019–20, across all types of incidents, the percentage of public schools that recorded one or more incidents was higher than the percentage that reported one or more incidents to sworn law enforcement. For example, 70 percent of public schools recorded one or more violent incidents,6 whereas 32 percent reported one or more incidents to sworn law enforcement. The same was true for serious violent incidents7 (25 vs. 14 percent), thefts8 (32 vs. 15 percent), and other incidents9 (57 vs. 36 percent). In terms of rates, public schools recorded 19 violent incidents per 1,000 students and reported 5 violent incidents per 1,000 students to sworn law enforcement. There were 2 thefts per 1,000 students recorded, compared with 1 theft per 1,000 students reported. There were 8 other incidents per 1,000 students recorded, compared with 4 other incidents per 1,000 students reported.
There have been 50 school shootings this year that resulted in injuries and deaths—the most in a single year since Education Week began tracking such incidents in 2018. Thirty-eight people were killed, including 31 students.
Teachers are working an average of 52 hours a week.
Many teachers supplement their base salary
with extracurriculars or second jobs.
Teacher vacancies spanned all subjects.
The pandemic exacerbated staffing shortages in schools. The NTPS data found that in the 2020-21 school year, public schools found it very difficult or were unable to fill their vacancies in these subject areas:
- foreign languages (42.5 percent)
- special education (40.2 percent)
- physical sciences (37.3 percent)
- English as a second language (31.8 percent)
- mathematics (31.7 percent)
- computer science (31.3 percent)
- career or technical education (31.2 percent)
- biology or life sciences (30.8 percent)
- music or art (23.3 percent)
- English/language arts (18 percent)
- general elementary (13.1 percent)
- physical education (11.6 percent)
- social studies (10.8 percent)