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Threats, fights on the rise across St. Louis schools as students face pandemic stress

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Leaders at Riverview Gardens hosted a virtual town hall last week to discuss the mental health challenges and behavior issues on campuses and buses.

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“What I’m witnessing on a daily basis is anxiety, stress, fatigue, frustration, fear and even anger,” said Elizabeth Austin, assistant superintendent of leadership and accountability. “It’s resulting in things that we haven’t seen before — a high number of physical altercations, stemming from many of the issues that COVID has presented.”

In the Normandy Schools Collaborative, a girl was taken to the emergency room after being assaulted by a boy in a classroom, a student slapped a bus driver and a 6-year-old was punched in the face by a middle school student on a bus, according to Superintendent Marcus Robinson.

“We’ve had a number of resignations from teachers who are disturbed by the level of violence that some kids have brought to school,” Robinson told the Normandy School Board at its October meeting.

There had been 1,454 days of out-of-school suspension for students in the district by mid-October, compared to 1,389 by the same date in 2019, Robinson said.

School leaders said they plan to use some of their federal pandemic relief funding on mental health services to address students’ struggles.

“In the last recession, with the last big chunk of recovery money, this conversation wasn’t happening,” said Amanda Fitzgerald, the assistant director of the American School Counselor Association. “Now, the tone across the country is very focused on the well-being of students.”

Read More: Threats, fights on the rise across St. Louis schools as students face pandemic stress

2021-11-18 14:14:00

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