Violence in schools is symptomatic of state of students’ mental health, expert says

MIAMI – Some students’ mental health suffered during the pandemic and this is what could be causing the increases in behavioral outbursts, aggression, and fights, according to the National Center for School Mental Health, a technical assistance and training center with a focus on advancing research.

Sharon Hoover, a clinical psychologist and the co-director of the NCSMH at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, said there are connections between a student’s mental health and the behavioral problems that affect the school’s learning environment and safety.

Hoover, who has been an advisor to the World Health Organization, leads NCSMH efforts to support states, districts, and schools in the adoption of national quality performance standards of comprehensive school mental health systems that support marginalized populations.

“From the schools’ perspective, there have been reported increases in behavioral outbursts, behavioral aggression, fights on their campuses post-COVID,” Hoover said.

Witness videos in South Florida show a boy and girl recently beating up a 9-year-old third-grade Coconut Palm K-8 Academy student on a school bus in Homestead, and older students hurting each other at West Broward High School in Pembroke Pines and at Miami Beach Senior High School.

Hoover said the research and the data complement the anecdotal evidence to show students are experiencing more emotional and behavioral health concerns that are resulting in disruptions because the root of the problem is not being addressed.

Hoover said the data showed very clear increases in suicide mortality in young people and increases in anxiety and depression during the pandemic. She said research shows the social isolation also stunted some students’ social-emotional development

“When you put all those things together, along with an education workforce that is also struggling, it is kind of the perfect storm for some of these incidents that we are seeing,” Hoover said.

Broward County Public Schools released data showing the district documented 27 cases of battery, 2,669 student fights, 1,105 physical attacks, 1,101 incidents of threats or intimation, 442 of unsubstantiated bullying, 154 cases of bullying, and 200 cases of weapons possession during the last school year alone.

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."