Proactive Mental Health Interventions Can Address Rising School Violence
Amidst a declared national emergency for children’s mental health and the Surgeon General’s call for action to protect student mental health, there are many factors that are influencing struggles for our students. Among them is a surge in violence. This is not just being seen in general society but can be found in the nation’s schools as well.
Violence in Schools on the Rise, Students Face the Impact
When students first began returning to in-person school after the pandemic necessitated a period of virtual schooling, anecdotal evidence suggested a potential concern relating to violence. Teachers were reporting having to break up many fights, school resource officers and teachers were assaulted, and in some areas, students expressed fear about walking to school. When data became available, the anecdotes were confirmed.
Data from the National Association of School Resource Officers found 97 gun-related incidents in schools during August and September 2021 compared to 29 during the same period in 2019. Increased aggression in the classroom is often the case of childrenstuck in difficult home environments for two years with little reprieve while others may be seeing the effects of two years without the development of social and emotional skills.
In many environments, simply traveling to school can be dangerous for students. With areas such as Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and Louisville seeing record gun violence, simply walking to or from school puts many students in fear. A 15-year-old freshmen in Washington, D.C., was fatally stabbed by a classmate on his way home from school while a 16-year-old New Orleans student was murdered walking to a bus stop.
The effects of this increased violence have been well-studied. A report highlighted that students exposed to violence are more likely to abuse drugs, suffer from depression, or resort to aggressive behavior in the future. It additionally impacts physical health as children report being less likely to engage in physical activity outside due to fears for safety. From the academic perspective, violence leads to more absences, lower test scores, and lower graduation rates.
The Quest for Sustainable Solutions
With violence in American schools increasing, many people have began looking for sustainable solutions to this problem, both aimed at reducing violence as well as providing support for emotional wellness for students affected by it. In fact, various areas have found a wealth of creative means to attempt to address this important issue. The Colorado legislature has extensively invested in mental health within the school system, seeking a preventative approach to school violence. The goal is to help equip students with socio-emotional learning skills and to help them learn from their mistakes at an early age.
A TED Talk from Jeffrey Brown about Boston’s efforts to dramatically decrease youth violence further highlights the importance of including children in the conversation. He noted, “We stopped looking at [the bullies] as the problem to be solved, and we started looking at them as partners, as assets, as co-laborers in the struggle to reduce violence in the community.” He makes a good point that the actions of bullies themselves are often driven by suffering that needs to be addressed and healed.
Meanwhile, RAND has noted the need for multi-faceted efforts to improve safety in schools. While these include many things such as physical and policy solutions, it also includes many initiatives aimed at improving mental health and socio-emotional learning. Recommended initiatives include identifying and providing counseling to at-risk students, teaching conflict mediation and resolution, and instruction to address precursors of violence and bullying.
How Can Schools Monitor Student Well-Being?
With schools often being understaffed and teachers feeling overwhelmed, how is it possible to accurately follow through on recommendations to monitor the well-being of students? One proactive method aimed at improving the overall emotional wellness of students is Clymb.
The things that makes Clymb truly stand out is its ability to easily personalize interventions for each and every student. As part of Clymb, students take a CASEL-aligned Socio-Emotional Competency Assessment that measures their growth in various dimensions over time. Each day, they take a brief daily check-in that assesses things like their mood, responsible decision-making, and self-management. This daily data is used to provide students with a customized intervention aimed at their specific SEL needs.
It is clear that checking in on students and monitoring their mental health needs is important. Clymb’s assessments provide teachers with a seamless way to do this in a proactive nature, providing reports that chart student growth and performance over time on various metrics of socio-emotional learning. Whether the goal it to chart performance on the district or individual level, Clymb provides options to meet the needs of educators.
In addition to providing valuable tracking of information, Clymb is an evidence-based solution that can directly impact school violence. Used by thousands of students, research has shown that Clymb is successful in improving student emotional regulation, self-management, and self-esteem while reducing behavioral outbursts, bullying, and suspensions. With many schools unsure of how to best support students during these difficulty times, Clymb proves to be an impressive and important SEL tool.
The Importance of Socio-Emotional Learning and Being Proactive
It is now more important than ever for schools to act to proactively address student mental health, emotional wellness, and socio-emotional learning. While it is understandable that life is busy, this is something that cannot be addressed in a reactive manner. Instead, it is critical that we act proactively to give children the skills needed to build healthy social and emotional relationships with their peers and themselves. This will not only lead to healthier children but also save lives.
Whether you are an educator, parent, or simply a concerned community member, we would appreciate you signing our petition aimed at imploring additional funding for wellness resources in schools. It is now more important than ever that Congress work to invest in the emotional and mental health of our children, helping us to navigate this mental health crisis.