Classroom Discipline Problems on the Rise: Another Sign of Pandemic’s Toll

Incidents of student misconduct have risen in New York City since pandemic disruptions, though serious crimes in schools have decreased, according to the New York Times.

New York City schools are grappling with a spike in discipline problems among children, evidence that the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic are having lingering effects, educators and experts say.

Most of the misconduct involves lower-level disturbances that educators and advocates say show that many students are still having a hard time emotionally after the stress of the pandemic.

Luis A. Rodriguez, an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at New York University, said the increase was not necessarily surprising, given the isolation and stress students and their families experienced during the pandemic.

At the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan, Rosa Isabel Chavez, a fashion design teacher, said that when schools reopened, students came back lacking “a high-school-level mentality.”

They were very much still childlike,” she said. “We had freshmen still holding hands, the way little children do in elementary school, which was adorable, but still scary.”

There were also fights, she added, because students thought “the response was to hit instead of talking things out.”

Last school year, there were 14,048 school safety incidents, according to Police Department data. In the 2018-2019 school year, there were 11,504. The increase comes amid debate over how schools should handle discipline problems.

In recent years, both the police and the Education Department have sought to reduce how often officers respond to low-level offenses like disorderly conduct. Police Department data shows that when uniformed officers and school safety agents do respond, they are now more likely to send students back to their schools for discipline instead of arresting them or issuing a summons.

Still, the number of times students were suspended or removed from class increased last year, to 36,992 from 31,738 the year before, though it remains below pre-pandemic levels.

“Most discipline incidences are not serious,” said Madeline Borrelli, a special-education teacher and member of Teachers Unite, an organization focused on ending “the school-to-prison pipeline.”

She said schools with fewer resources, where teachers may be overwhelmed, may be relying on suspensions or calling in school safety agents “to respond to normal child behavior.”

The New York Times

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