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Survey shows increased violence at NC public schools, development affected by pandemic

2023-3-8 Lam, Northside Elementary School-7.jpg
Northside Elementary School is located off of Caldwell Street in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Wednesday, March 8, 2023.

According to a recent Institute of Education Sciences survey conducted through the U.S. Department of Education, North Carolina public schools reported increased student disciplinary issues, such as crime and violence, during the 2021-22 school year.

In this period, 11,170 instances of crime and violence occurred in North Carolina public schools, with a rate of 7.51 acts per 1,000 students enrolled, according to the survey. 

Compared to the 2018-19 school year, the most recent pre-pandemic school year, the total number of crimes and violence went up by 16.9 percent while the rate per 1,000 students increased by 16.3 percent. 

The five-year difference in the number and rate of crimes also saw an increase from the 2017-18 academic year. The number of crimes increased by 14.6 percent and the rate of crimes increased by 17.2 percent. 

Of a representative sample of North Carolina public schools, 84 percent either agreed or strongly agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected students' behavioral development. Furthermore, 87 percent of schools agreed or strongly agreed that the pandemic impacted students' socio-emotional development.

According to the press release, students struggled to go back to in-person learning after experiencing social and academic challenges due to remote learning, quarantine and limited interactions with peers and teachers. 

A $17 million federal grant was given to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to assist 15 less-funded school districts in providing more mental health resources for their students. 

“We know that the pandemic in and of itself was considered a childhood adverse event, and it was a traumatic event for young people,” LaVerne Mattocks-Perry, senior executive director for student support services for Durham Public Schools, said. 

Mattocks-Perry said that public schools in Durham have focused on using restorative practices. These practices allow school faculty and staff to give 80 percent of their focus to relationship-building with students and 20 percent of their focus to dealing with student disciplinary issues, she said.

“We have almost doubled our resources and our attempts to provide solid foundational resources to schools to make sure we have a way to be more proactive,” Mattocks-Perry said. 

Claire Gitterman, Carrboro High School's student government president, said she believes online school due to the pandemic impacted student motivation.

She said students grew accustomed to being able to follow their own schedule and work at their own pace. There weren't many people telling them what to do, she said. 

"I think for a lot of students who really appreciated that freedom, the adjustment back to in-person school was difficult," Gitterman said. 

Gitterman added that she thinks the majority of teachers at her school have been understanding with students, especially in light of a difficult post-pandemic transition. 

She said that mental health is a continuous discussion at the school, and staff has done a great job addressing student needs. 

Lucille May, a first-grade teacher at Sherwood Forest Elementary School, said she noticed her students were coming in at lower developmental levels than usual. 

She said the ability for students to listen to teachers was hard because they missed so much school. She said school is about learning how to be a good learner, not just academics.

“They needed a lot of social-emotional learning lessons, a lot of repetition,” May said. “A lot of going over the rules. Eventually, we got there but they needed a lot of time to really get all that under their belt.”

However, she noted that school has been much better during the current school year, especially because teachers have experience in a post-COVID-19 school year.

@DTHCityState | 

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