Juana M. Lang, Ed. D
The National Center for Education Statistics (2022) reported that in the United States, 80% of schools experienced a negative outpouring of discipline issues in the aftermath of the pandemic. Similarly, the same report revealed that certain types of behavior had aggravated in frequency.
Classroom disruptions, disrespect towards teachers and staff, rowdiness outside the classroom, and use of electronic devices were perceived as the most common infractions. Data collected about student behavior in May 2022 by the National Center of Education Statistics also uncovered that 39% of public school educators strongly agreed that the pandemic affected social-emotional development skills.
Furthermore, public schools also reported increased bullying, tardiness, cell phone use, students’ verbal abuse to teachers, fights, classroom disruptions, cutting class, physical attacks on teachers, and vandalism.
Unaddressed youth mental health disorders corrode academic and behavioral attitudes and cause problems such as the inability to concentrate, memory issues, self-control, poor decision-making, and lack of problem-solving skills (Owens et al., 2022). According to Owens et al. (2022), undiagnosed mental health problems may also lead to delinquency and, thus, office referrals, suspensions, and even imprisonment (Rossen & Cowan, 2014).
School closures in March 2020, isolation, social distancing, changes in the organization of life, the state of social crisis, and increased domestic violence (Fegert et al., 2020) are factors associated with a spike in mental health issues in children worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic (Varghese & Natsuaki, 2021). Similarly, George et al. (2021) explained that the lack of in-person schooling and stress affected neurodevelopment. According to Naff et al. (2022), the pandemic exacerbated mental problems in young people and caused increased anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
70% of public school educators reported an increase in students seeking mental health services (The National Center for Education Statistics, 2022). While some changes were made to the daily or yearly academic calendar to mitigate potential mental health issues, a staggering 67% of public schools nationwide did not incorporate any changes. In April 2022, only 12% of schools strongly agreed about being able to provide mental health services to all students. Educators claimed that different factors influenced the lack of mental health and behavioral services in schools.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, gauging the damages to children’s mental health has been arduous. Successfully managing stress and trauma may create a strong sense of competence; thus, turning adversity into triumph becomes a decisive protective factor in coping with future trauma and stress (Fegert et al., 2020). Power et al. (2005) contended that well below 50% of children and adolescents needing mental health services receive it.
Although the science is conclusive about the importance of coping tools in successfully healing trauma and adversity, providing mental health services for students has been thwarted by different factors in public schools. One of the challenges for many schools is understaffing. In addition, a lack of funding also contributes to a dearth of mental health resources in many schools. According to the National Association of School Psychologists (n.d), states are making strides, such as signing laws to hire and train mental health personnel to work in local schools.
Fegert, J. M., Vitiello, B., Plener, P. L., & Clemens, V. (2020). Challenges and burden of the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic for child and adolescent mental health: a narrative review to highlight clinical and research needs in the acute phase and the long return to normality. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 14(1), 1-11.
George, G., Dilworth-Bart, J., & Herringa, R. (2021). Potential socioeconomic effects of the CoViD-19 pandemic on neural development, mental health, and K-12 educational achievement. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8(2), 111-118.
Naff, D., Williams, S., Furman-Darby, J., & Yeung, M. (2022). The mental health impact of COVID-19 on PK-12 students: A systematic review of emerging literature. AERA Open, 8(1), 1-40.
Owens, M., Townsend, E., Hall, E., Bhatia, T., Fitzgibbon, R., & Miller-Lakin, F. (2022). Mental health and wellbeing in young people in the UK during lockdown (COVID-19). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(3), 1132.
Power, T. J., Eiraldi, R. B., Clarke, A. T., Mazzuca, L. B., & Krain, A. L. (2005). Improving mental health service utilization for children and adolescents. School Psychology Quarterly, 20(2), 187.
Rossen, E., & Cowan, K. C. (2014). Improving mental health in schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(4), 8-13.
The National Association of School Psychologists (n.d). Advocating for school mental health services within state policy.
The National Center for Education Statistics (2022). School Pulse Panel.
Varghese, A. M., & Natsuaki, M. N. (2021). Coping with the pandemic: Implementing social and emotional learning in the California K-12 school system. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8(2), 136-142.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Juana Lang
I have been an Educator for 26 years. During this time, I served in different roles. I graduated from the University of Phoenix with a Doctor of Education degree in September 2022. My doctoral journey was instrumental in developing the passion I profess for research. As a scholar, leader, and practitioner, I am inspired by the condition of education to improve leadership, teaching, and learning at all levels.
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