Problem Children

April 03, 2007 1 min read

Considering the age group, stories about violent middle- and high-schoolers are to be expected. But the news that schools are dealing with an increasing number of violent elementary-schoolers is tough to swallow. These kids aren’t disabled; they just don’t have the coping skills to deal with frustration and disappointment. In the New Britain, Connecticut, district, for example, suspensions given to 1st through 5th graders rose from 254 to 346 in one year. Among the offenses: hitting classmates without provocation; physically attacking teachers and principals; and removing clothes in class. Most schools put these kids in separate classrooms, where they can continue learning as counselors help modify their behavior. “These children are either looking for attention or acting out extreme frustration or anger, and confronting them is not the most positive way to address that,” explains Jon Walek, New Britain’s director of pupil services. School officials say the causes for such behavior range from violence-saturated media to parents who can’t say no. But, to some degree, standardized testing—preparation for which reduces time for phys ed and free play—is to blame. “That kind of time,” says one official, “just isn’t there anymore, and I think it’s really frustrating for our younger children.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.