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After a year of violence, U.S. schools try to relieve tensions

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The Associated Press

Associated Press

Jocelyn Gecker

San Francisco (AP) — The first week of school is the year of distance learning in the classrooms of Everett Middle School in San Francisco.

But when computer science teacher Yesi Castro-Mitchell welcomed her sixth grade class last fall, her students began beating her over and over again. ..

Castro Mitchell wrapped her arm around her head, hoping her batter would stop. She remembers her stunned silence in her classroom when other students witnessed the assault. The teacher suffered from concussion, dislocation of the jaw, missing teeth, and deafness in the left ear, and needed a hearing aid.

Throughout the United States, one of the most difficult grades in the United States was also one of the most violent years. Experts tracking school behavior across the country said fighting, including shooting, and other offensive behavior seemed to be on the rise. Now, as students go out during the summer vacation, the school is looking at what went wrong and how to fix it.

At Everett, many of the issues this year were the same as before the pandemic, but "the severity, intensity, and frequency were very high," said Cris Garza, an eight-year teacher at Everett. I am saying. 'Union representative.

According to several teachers and parents, in addition to the attacks on the teachers, there were fights among the students almost every day. In one brawl, the student was hospitalized for at least two days. In other cases, swarms of students broke into the classroom, disrupting lessons and sometimes destroying school property.

Educators and psychologists say that pandemics cause a surge in mental health problems for students, trauma at home, lack of social opportunities, a shortage of teachers, and school failure. It states that it contributed to stability. A counselor with reduced adult supervision and guidance.

There are no national data to track school battles and assaults, but national education officials say violence occurred more frequently and more violently.

"I've definitely heard that schools have significantly increased the crises associated with school violence and the crisis of emotional behavior," said Sharon Huber, co-director of the National School Mental Health Center. Says. University of Maryland School of Medicine.

She said the same problem is likely to reappear in the fall if the struggling adolescent does not get the help and structure she needs.

Everett students felt the effects of the pandemic seriously. About 70% of the 600 students in the school are Latin, many are learners of English, and most are financially disadvantaged. According to school social worker Bridget Early, many lost their parents and grandparents on COVID-19, or lost their homes because their families couldn't pay the rent.

Castro-Mitchell said no one warned her that her attacker had a history of her behavioral problems. After the assault, the teacher transferred to another school, but was dropped out by the end of the year because he was suffering from PTSD.

Some of Everett's staff complained that the pandemic rules aimed at improving air circulation had the unintended effect of inducing fraud. The teacher was unable to close or lock the classroom door. A group of students who skipped a class walked around the hall and rushed into another class during the session.

According to reports from members of the National Association of School Resources Officers, the group's managing director said more weapons, more assaults, and more boxing fights on school campuses across the country. One MoCanady says. ..

The Clark County School District in Las Vegas is one of the largest in the country, offering teachers a panic button after increased violence, such as the April attack on unconscious teachers in the classroom. Announced. .. The district police chief, Mike Blackeye, said the 2021-22 grades were the busiest in the 40-year history of his faculty.

Hoover said that when a pandemic occurred, especially young people lost what gave them their living structure. They were cut off from school and isolated from their peers.

Many schools are trying to address the root cause.

When the students returned to Savannah High School in Anaheim, California, it was a "post-battle battle," said Penny Hutches, the school's chief counselor. The school hired a restorative justice expert. They want more balance with discipline next year, but emphasize mediation over punishment. In October, I used a grant to open a "relaxation room" where I was able to talk with a mental health counselor.

"We published it, and we saw a huge reduction in fighting and discipline issues. It was day and night," Hatch's said. The school also held support groups for students who suffered losses, LGBTQ + students, and more. Sometimes it was held several times a day.

Savannah freshman Clara Oliver suffers from intensifying anxiety when she returns to face-to-face school, making it difficult to have a direct conversation with her classmates. I noticed. For her, her relaxation room has become a shelter. Eventually, conversations with people became easier.

"The room will give us a break from all," she said. "When we were stressed about school, we just went to that room. There were people to talk to, there were treats, there were fidgeting toys and card games. Relax, class I was able to go back and continue the day. "

At Everett, school officials attempted a" January reset. " This is a new strategy to bring students together, an effort to make lessons more enjoyable and more social and emotional work with children.

But they couldn't pull it off. As in other places, the omicron-led surge of coronavirus set aside educators and deepened the danger of staffing in schools where security guards and agents were already in short supply.

"In a year when mental health became more important than ever," Early said she spent most of her time "putting out the fire." She frequently represented her.

Parents were concerned about their child's safety and advised them to avoid the danger zone.

"My son didn't normally use the bathroom. He would wait until the end of school," she said. A 7th grade mother, she had no science teacher, music teacher, or PE teacher for months.

Principal Esther Fencel resigned at the end of the school year and did not respond to the request for an interview.

San Francisco Unified School District spokesman Laura Dudnick, like many other schools, Everett suffers from increased mental health challenges and staff shortages for students. Said.

This year, she said the district hired additional guards to extend the coverage of the surrogate and demanded that students lock their cell phones during class.

Next year, according to Early, the school will open a subsidized wellness center with onsite therapists and other staff to focus on the social and emotional needs of students. It's a schedule.

"All children, especially those experiencing trauma, need consistency and stability," Early said. "We couldn't provide them to them all year long."


The Associated Press education team is supported by the Carnegie Foundation in New York. .. AP is solely responsible for all content.