Stress of pandemic believed to be tied to rise in violence in schools

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 8:03 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It has become a worrisome trend nationwide and in some local school districts and has educators looking for solutions to increasing violence in high schools.

The Bedford administration has shut down the high school, at least until the end of November as they work to put together a comprehensive safety plan and the Akron teachers union just recently announced their concerns over what they claim are unsafe high schools.

Eileen Anderson is the Director of the Medical Humanities Program at Case Western Reserve University and said the rise in violence in our schools, can be tied, to the stress of the COVID pandemic.

“You have a lot of economic stress on families, you have illness, you have death, you have fear of the unknown, you have isolation and you have that lack of social cohesion that is so important to most adolescents,” she said.

Those stressors take their toll on young people, Anderson said in the form of an intensification of mental health issues and unfortunately in some cases, subsequently, violence in the classroom.

A solution becomes complicated, Anderson said, in that every community is different and has a unique set of challenges and then every young person in that community is going to react in their own way to the stressors of their own household.

And, as parents and administrators look for solutions they may be playing shorthanded.

”The families are stressed, the teachers are stressed and the schools themselves are low on staff,” Anderson said.

But Anderson said there is hope and it starts with her advice to administrators to go directly to those in the schools who know best where the problems start.

“You need to listen carefully to your teachers, you need to understand what they’re seeing on a micro level, what they are experiencing day to day,” she said.

And that micro-level experience that the teachers have is shared by the students who also just may have a surprising grasp on what works and what does not when it comes to keeping a school safe.

“It’s remarkable the creative solutions that adolescents themselves come up with because they care, they get it, and they deeply think through these problems,” Anderson said.

The Bedford administrators were in a difficult position, Anderson believes, when they made the decision to close the high school.

Certainly, she said, they understood the ramifications of isolating the students in remote learning for a month while they developed a security plan but believes they made the decision for a better future for everyone at the high school.

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