The Weekly Connect 4/5/21

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Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

The pandemic mutes reporting of child abuse because fewer children are in school and school personnel are the primary reporters of abuse.

Tennessee’s governor proposes a mental health trust fund to help K-12 schools deal with the pandemic’s aftermath.

How schools can address anti-Asian violence.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Evidence-Based Interventions, Data Crucial in K-12 Pandemic Recovery
K-12 Dive: A new report from Results for America, a nonprofit working with education decision-makers, outlines steps districts, states, and the federal government can take to support the use of daily evidence- and data-based decisions. The report cites “the urgent need to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, increase economic mobility, and ensure racial justice” as reasons to accelerate the use of data, evidence, and evaluation. The report recommends districts work with state and federal governments to produce more relevant, meaningful, and accessible data to support schools. The report also suggests states and districts fund the use of evidence-based approaches in school improvement plans and consider a full range of evidence in the intervention selection process.

Pandemic Masks Ongoing Child Abuse Crisis as Cases Plummet
A.P. News: An Associated Press analysis found that child abuse reports, investigations, substantiated allegations, and interventions have dropped at a staggering rate since COVID-19 shutdowns, increasing risks for the most vulnerable of families in the United States. School personnel are the top reporters of child abuse; they’re the most important eyes and ears for child welfare agencies across states. Teachers, administrators, counselors, coaches, nurses, and other adults working in school settings are trained to identify warning signs and mandated by law to report any potential issues of child abuse or neglect. The AP found that child abuse and neglect reports from school sources fell by 59%, compared to a 4% decline of reports from non-school reporting sources.

Policy

Biden Says Schools Are On Track To Open As Promised, But Will Kids Go?
N.P.R.: During his first news conference, President Biden said Thursday that his administration is on track to keep a promise he made to the nation’s parents and caregivers: to reopen the majority of elementary and middle schools for full-time, in-person learning within his first 100 days in office. Newly released federal data suggest the president may indeed be on track, with roughly 42% of students attending schools that offer fully in-person learning. However, those data revealed that just 33% of students returned full time. The fact is, many families in communities hit hard by COVID-19 remain reluctant to send their children back to school, even if those schools have reopened. See related article: Education Week “Children as Young as 12 May Soon Be Able to Get Vaccinated.”

How Schools Fit Into Biden’s Infrastructure Push
Politico: President Biden said during a recent press conference that schools would be a focus of his infrastructure push. Lamenting the state of some of the nation’s classrooms, Biden said, “How many schools where the kids can’t drink the water out of the fountain? How many schools are still in the position where there’s asbestos? How many schools in America we’re sending our kids to don’t have adequate ventilation?” Advocates for school infrastructure are pressing lawmakers to prioritize education funding, as various constituencies gear up to lobby for a piece of the infrastructure pie in the coming weeks. A coalition of education, business, and labor groups is calling on congressional leaders to include a $100 billion plan that cleared the House last year as part of the latest infrastructure push.

Governor Lee Renews Proposal for Mental Health Trust Fund
TN Office of the Governor: Tennessee Governor Bill Lee re-introduced the Mental Health Trust Fund in a renewed proposal to assist K-12 families who are facing significant mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19. This proposal allocates $250 million in available funds to create strong mental health services for students in K-12 schools through a system wide, evidence-based approach. Services supported by the Mental Health Trust Fund would include: direct clinical services in schools, mental health awareness and promotion, suicide prevention and postvention strategies, trauma-informed programs and practices, and violence and bullying prevention.

Around the Nation

Anti-Asian Violence: What Schools Should Start Doing About It
Education Week: There’s nothing new about violence or racism targeting Asians and Asian Americans. But the Atlanta shootings have suddenly thrust those dynamics into the national spotlight, fueled by heated rhetoric about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of it perpetuated by former President Trump. K-12 schools must create safe and empowering environments for Asian and Asian-American students and facilitate dialog and learning about anti-Asian racism for all students, educators say. Some challenges stand out in doing that work: the treatment of Asian Americans and their experiences as monolithic, cultural and language barriers impacting relationship-building with schools for Asian and Asian American families who recently arrived in the U.S., and the perpetuation of the “model minority” myth. See related article: Education Week “We Ignore the Pain of Black Children.”

The Pandemic Will Affect Students’ Mental Health for Years to Come. How Schools Can Help
Education Week: The pandemic, combined with a massive experiment in remote schooling, a racial justice movement stemming from police killings of Black Americans, and economic and political instability will have long-term effects on schoolchildren’s mental health. For the foreseeable future, educators will have to grapple with a host of additional challenges that will complicate students’ abilities to learn, such as increased anxiety, substance abuse, and hyperactivity—all symptoms of the trauma many students have lived through this past year. Children’s responses to trauma sometimes look like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schools and families might jump to that diagnosis and miss the opportunity to take a trauma-informed approach to addressing the root causes of students’ behavior.

Sent Home Early: Lost Learning in Special Education
The Hechinger Report: This year, millions of students have had their schooling curtailed, prompting discussions about the effects of lost learning time. But a subset of students in special education has been quietly plagued with this problem for decades, often with devastating consequences. Shortening the school day for students with disabilities as punishment for their behavior is illegal, experts say. Instead, schools must support and address these issues in the classroom. However, schools are not required to justify their decisions to send students home early, nor is any significant data collected on this practice. For many students, a shortened school day can last for months or even years, which can have a disastrous impact as they miss out on crucial academic, social and emotional learning time. See related article: K-12 Dive “Pandemic’s K-12 Impacts Exacerbated by Pre-Existing Disability Disparities.”

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