"Without doubt, we are hearing across the board that schools are experiencing significantly more crises related to school violence and emotional behavioral crises" - Sharon Hoover, co-director of the National Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (June 2022)
There were 93 gun attacks on school grounds in the 2020-2021 academic year, the single highest incidence since the Federal government began keeping track at the turn of the millennium. Of those 93 shootings, 43 resulted in fatalities. A less visible phenomenon, and one that is harder to track, given the lack of national statistics, is the post-pandemic growth in nonfatal violence. Assault, bullying, and destruction of property do not make it to centralized registries but, according to Education Week, are on the rise as students return to school. In October of last year, a high school teacher in Rochester, N.Y., Corrine Mundorff was sexually assaulted trying to break up a fight. That same month parents of students attending Edmondson-Westside High School in Baltimore, M.D. organized a protest against what they perceived to be a surge in violence on school grounds. Shortly in advance of the 2022 school term, the Department of Homeland Security published a resource entitled Mitigating the Threat of School Violence as the U.S. "Returns to Normal" from the COVID-Pandemic and Beyond in which they outlined pandemic isolation associated risk factors for violence and steps authorities can take to intervene. As of the time of this writing, mere weeks into the 2022 school term, authorities in Eastern Tennessee have had to intervene in four cases, citing or charging the students involved with threatening school violence.
Experts and educators alike place the majority of the blame on the pandemic and the trauma it exposed a generation of children to. Reasons include the stress of being isolated for months, of only virtually interacting with friends and teachers, of watching family members lose their jobs, and in the most extreme cases, of losing loved ones to the virus. Christine Mason, an assistant clinical professor at Yale University and the founder of the Center for Educational Improvement argued that schools are asking students to catch up too soon, telling US News that “It may be really important to slow down a bit and truly engage with kids” instead of focusing entirely on making up for the lost academic year. Mundroff, the teacher from Rochester, expressed similar sentiments in an interview with Education Week, noting “we have brought our kids back—23,000 of them—and for some reason we’ve decided we were going to pretend the pandemic had never happened and ignore 18 months of trauma induced by the pandemic students have experienced.”
Action on the policy side has historically focused on two fronts. On the one hand, organizations like The Centers for Disease Control and the National Association of School Psychologists have published resources for helping educators identify risk factors for violence On the other, many schools across the country have adopted hardening measures. Initiatives like adding metal detectors and security cameras or hiring resource officers- sworn law enforcement charged with responding to threats on campus. In a 2019 report, the National Education Association called such measures ineffective, and experts like Joe McKenna, senior research associate at WestEd’s Justice & Prevention Research Center agree. He told Education Week that hardening measures do more to give the impression of action than they do to meaningfully combat violence, and that to really make a difference, schools need to hire more psychologists and social workers to help students unpack the trauma that leads to disruptive outbursts. While primarily addressed at curbing lethal gun violence on school grounds, the recent Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes significant funding for mental health that experts say will be a welcome addition in the fight against violence on school campuses.
This symposium will provide a space to advance the policy conversation. It will bring together legislators, educators, advocacy groups, public safety professionals, and other stakeholders to discuss the future of school safety in the United States. It will allow participants to interrogate the issue from multiple angles and perspectives, to examine best practices across different states and cities, to discuss the impacts of recent and established policies on school safety, and ultimately, to come away better informed and more empowered to help provide a safe learning environment for America’s children and teachers.
Discuss the phenomenon of increased violence on school grounds post Covid-19 and the effectiveness of policy responses by local authorities
Analyze the role of behavioral health awareness and screening in preventing school violence.
Weigh the costs and benefits of school hardening measures being taken by individual states and school districts to promote school safety.
Identify ways to address concerns of discrimination, profiling, and equal access to education while allowing educators the flexibility to reroute disruptive students out of the general classroom and into targeted programs
Assess the capacity of school behavioral health teams to deal with the influx of trauma post Covid-19 and evaluate the readiness of schools themselves to hire on additional staff in case of unmet demand
Explore the role of communities and families in preventing school violence.
Department of Education Officials
Public Safety Officials
School Resource Officers
Child Development Specialists
School Board Officials
Parent Teacher Associations
Diversity and Inclusion Specialists
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