Education

Briefly Stated: August 24, 2022

August 23, 2022 8 min read
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Assaults Against Teachers, Principals by Students Rising

Educators may as well be wearing targets on their backs. Or so it seems.

Student misbehavior is on the rise, and, at times, manifests itself as physical attacks against teachers, principals, and district leaders. Data back that up.

In a new EdWeek Research Center survey, more than 4 of every 10 educators said at least one teacher in their district had been physically assaulted or attacked by a student in the past year. In addition, 10 percent of educators said they personally had been assaulted by a student.

The findings echo recent survey results conducted by other organizations, such as the American Psychological Association.

The most likely targets of the assaults? Principals, with 20 percent reporting such incidents. Eight percent of teachers reported being assaulted, and 5 percent of district leaders said they had similar experiences.

And it’s not just students who are acting out—sometimes in violent ways. Educators said they also had to deal with disrespectful behaviors or threats from parents. Most educators, though (82 percent), said no one in their district had been physically assaulted or attacked by a parent or guardian in the past year.

Some educators suggest the rise in student misbehavior could be associated with challenges related to returning to in-person learning after extended periods of remote or hybrid instruction. Many educators who took the survey lamented that there are students who don’t know how to interact with other people in a classroom setting.

“We had the worst year in terms of behavior and outbursts from students and parents we have ever [had],” said a middle school principal in Michigan. “It was a year of emotional outbursts that we weren’t prepared for.”

An Indiana district leader agreed: “Student and parent behavior was worse than I have ever seen in 40-plus years of being a public school educator.”

Some educators also noted that managing student behavior is difficult because students often do not face adequate consequences after physically assaulting or threatening a staff member. A district leader in Minnesota went as far as to say this is the reason “we are losing a lot of teachers.”

Public School Enrollment May Be Up Slightly, But 1 Million-Plus Students Remain Off the Rolls

Where is Waldo? And Shamika? And Luis? What about Seiko and Amir?

More than two years into the pandemic, 1.3 million students are still missing from public school rolls, with financial implications looming for districts eyeing the end of extra federal and state pandemic aid.

The U.S. Department of Education’s preliminary count finds 49.5 million students were enrolled in public schools last fall. That’s ticked up slightly from 49.4 million in 2020, when many schools were still closed to in-person instruction. But it’s still well below the 50.8 million who were in public P-12 before the pandemic began.

Earlier in the pandemic, schools saw the largest declines in the earliest grades, particularly for low-income and Black students. Incoming preschool and kindergarten classes did rebound, with 15 percent more prekindergartners and 5 percent more kindergartners enrolled last fall than in 2020. But in many states, that boost was not enough to make up for the massive decline the prior year, when 20 states lost 10 percent or more of their kindergartners and at least four states lost more than 1 in 3 pre-K students, compared with fall 2019.

Boston University and University of Michigan researchers have found that the ongoing disruptions and changing restrictions “may have substantially altered parents’ perceptions of the quality of schooling their children might experience, as well as their perceptions of the physical risk of in-person schooling.”

The researchers, led by Michigan’s Tareena Musaddiq, found low-income and Black families became less likely to have their young children start school during 2020’s remote learning, but white and wealthier families were more likely to pull even their older children from public school systems in favor of home schooling, private schools, or other options. As of last year, white-student enrollment continued to drop across grades.

“One of the questions that we are all still coming to is, what does this new normal of mid- to post-pandemic look like?” said Ross Santy, the associate commissioner for administrative data for the National Center for Education Statistics, which released the new enrollment data.

Message to School Leaders: Be Informed, Not Alarmed About Impact of Monkeypox on Students and Staff

At last, something that school leaders don’t have to worry about all that much.

Monkeypox may have been declared a public-health emergency, but epidemiologists say it’s unlikely to be spread through brief incidental contact or interactions. And, so far, federal data show just five of the 7,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States were children.

Although additional pediatric cases are likely to arise, school leaders should be informed, not alarmed, said Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University.

“It’s really important to distinguish that this is not COVID-19,” she said. “Obviously, there is always a concern when there is an outbreak of any infectious disease, but at the same time, there is no cause for panic.”

What school leaders do need to know is:

Symptoms include a blisterlike rash that lasts two to four weeks, fatigue, fever, aches, nasal congestion, and cough. The virus is rarely fatal, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is spread primarily through direct person-to-person contact or contact with items like towels and bed linens that have touched an infected person’s rash.

Children who are at higher risk of severe illness include 8-year-olds and younger, children with compromised immune systems, and those with skin conditions like eczema or severe acne.

Although it’s possible that contact could occur in school settings or through contact sports like wrestling, it’s still likely to be a relatively rare occurrence, El-Sadr said.

And because transmission is largely through direct contact, it’s unnecessary for school leaders to prepare detailed contact tracing plans like they did for COVID-19, El-Sadr said.

Monkeypox “is not nearly as contagious as some other diseases children routinely pass from one person to another, but it has happened, and school administrators should be aware it could happen,” said Gigi Gronvall, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Because the disease has largely been associated with LGBTQ people, she said school leaders should be prepared to confront misinformation and stigma.

N.C. Sheriff Is Putting AR-15 in Every School in County

A sheriff in North Carolina is planning to fight fire with fire by stocking all the schools in his county with an AR-15—the weapon of choice in many campus mass shootings.

Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood said each rifle has been stored in a safe, and all six schools have a school resource officer who would be responsible for the guns. That’s according to the Asheville Citizen Times.

The strategy appears to becoming more common, said Mac Hardy, the operations director at the National Association of School Resource Officers and a former SRO in Alabama.

In an active-shooter situation, semiautomatic rifles, like the AR-15, enable officers to counter someone with a comparable weapon rather than a sidearm, said Ken Trump, a school safety consultant.

But having the weapons doesn’t mean the rifles would be easy to access when locked in an SRO’s office. Hardy said his school-based policing unit in Alabama had a rule that officers would not leave the scene of an incident to grab the rifles. Instead, they would use whatever weapons they had on hand to respond.

“If I’m out … where the kids are moving around during the day …, our policy was, ‘You do not go back to the office to get a rifle, you’re responding to a direct threat,’ ” he said.

Hardy’s unit used biometric safes that require a thumbprint rather than a key or combination lock to secure the guns and ensure officers could quickly access them, he said.

Still, there are risks. Trump pointed to an incident in 2019 in which two former students broke into a school in Red Boiling Springs, Tenn., and stole an AR-15 rifle from an SRO’s office.

To avoid the most serious risks, the weapons should be locked in a safe in an SRO’s office, the office should be locked, and there should be an intrusion alarm, Trump said. Also, the room should not have a paneled or false ceiling to prevent intruders.

GOP Lawmaker Seizes Pledge Omission to Push Vouchers

A single school district in North Dakota—albeit the largest—has apparently provided GOP lawmakers itching to pass school voucher laws an excuse to try anew.

The Fargo school board voted 7-2 this month to halt the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms, saying it doesn’t align with the district’s diversity code, largely because it includes the phrase “under God.”

In turn, state Sen. Scott Meyer called the board’s action “laughable” and an “affront to our American values.” He also took the opportunity to announce he would draft a school voucher bill, which, of course, would affect all districts, not just Fargo.

“These positions … just don’t align with North Dakota values,” he said. “The logical solution is to just give parents that option to help educate their kids.”

Nick Archuleta, who heads North Dakota United, the union that includes teachers and other public employees, said even without the board action, he “fully expected at least one school choice bill” when the legislature reconvenes in January.

“Right now, every North Dakota family has the right to send their kids to public schools to parochial schools to private schools or to home school them—so they already have school choice,” Archuleta said. “What they’re asking for is for the public dollars to pay for those decisions. Our position has been and always will be that money raised from the public tax collections should be used for public purposes, including public education.”

The legislature previously failed to pass similar measures because of pressure from public school advocates, but Meyers said he believes the Fargo district’s decision could provide the catalyst for passage.

Last year, GOP Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill designed to protect schools and teachers from lawsuits that might arise from posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms. The measure includes a requirement that the Ten Commandments be part of a display with other historical documents.

The Associated Press, Wire Service; Evie Blad, Staff Writer; Lauraine Langreo, Staff Writer; Libby Stanford, Reporter; and Sarah D. Sparks, Assistant Editor contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the August 24, 2022 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated

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