Educators are witnessing the harmful effects school closures have had on kids

Throughout the pandemic, American Experiment research has warned against closing schools in an effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to school closures being ineffective at stopping COVID, we showed that they would have also detrimental effects on kids’ wellbeing, learning, and even future earnings.

New evidence indicates that these fears may have come to pass. As students have headed back to the classrooms, educators and health care providers are reporting delayed social development and other signs of mental health problems like disruptive and self-injurious behaviors. According to MPR News,

“There has been a significant increase in mental health crises since the pandemic started,” said Raghu Gandhi, a child psychiatrist and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He said isolation, stress, closed schools and academic struggles are all having an effect on the students he sees in his practice. 

“We are seeing a lot of teenagers who are coming to our ERs with depression, assessment of suicide attempts, self-injurious behaviors such as cutting and a lot of substance abuse,” Gandhi said. 

This is not too surprising, considering that the increase in incidences of mental health issues in young people is something we have covered extensively. Multiple reports from the CDC have already indicated an uptick in the number of adolescents reporting mental distress or hospital visits due to mental health distress.

What’s new is that since the opening of schools, teachers are witnessing these effects in person.

School leaders around the state say they’re seeing these same issues in their buildings. 

“In August, when students came to school, we were so excited to have them in person that we didn’t recognize or realize some of these social skills that they maybe had lost or not developed,” said Andrea Rusk, principal at Brainerd High School. 

In October she sent a letter to families in her district, pleading for help with student behaviors she and her staff had never seen before. In the first three weeks of classes alone, she said there were three physical altercations. And then there’s screen addiction, increased substance abuse, vandalism, academic disengagement and conflict at levels of intensity she’s never experienced. 

When Gov. Tim Walz was asked whether he would consider enacting a state of emergency again in the light of surging COVID-19 cases, he said it would be very unlikely. Among his reasons was the fact that restrictions would be ineffective and they would also pose harm to the public.

If only he had realized how costly COVID-19 restrictions were a year ago, kids would not have had to pay such a large price.