by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The kids are not all right. The number of school shootings in 2020-2021 was the highest (93 in total) since 2000-2001, according to a recently released report by the National Center for Education Statistics. Other negative indicators also increased since the pandemic lockdowns: cyberbullying, student verbal abuse of teachers, student acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse, and widespread disorder in the classroom.
A separate federal study released in early July found that more than 80 percent of public schools reported that the pandemic had taken a toll on student behavior and social-emotional development, and that more than 70 percent of schools saw increases in chronic student absenteeism since the onset of the pandemic (and school closures). And about half of schools also reported increased acts of disrespect toward teachers and staff.
It’s not difficult to identify what might have triggered this new “pandemic” of student misbehavior. For an entire school year, if not longer, millions of American students went to a fully virtual learning environment in which it became easy to skirt the rules, avoid discipline, and still pass. Largely free from the structure and discipline of a school environment, many academically (and socially) regressed. Educators overwhelmed and frustrated by distance digital learning had difficulty teaching and motivating their students, and for many, burnout or apathy became the norm.
Lockdowns have been associated with all manner of problems in our nation’s youth, including declines in student mental and emotional health, motivation, social skills, reading proficiency, and general academic achievement. Some studies have found that students made little or no progress while learning from home. Lockdowns have also been correlated to increased child suicide rates. …
… Yet I suspect it’s not only the (entirely unnecessary) lockdowns that are affecting students’ behavior and antagonism toward authority. For at the same time that lockdowns were beginning to have deleterious effects on students, another dramatic social crisis was already enveloping our nation’s schools: anti-racism curricula.