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Pandemic Impacts Student Mental Health; Suspensions of Young Children; + Remembering Dudley Williams

This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: The Pandemic’s Impact on Students’ Mental Health, Addressing Suspensions of Young Children, and Remembering Dudley Williams.

Pandemic’s Impact on Students’ Mental Health

In the wake of COVID-19, children in Connecticut and nationally are in a declining state of emotional health. One doctor in a Hartford Courant article observed thatbeyond all of the obvious stresses of pandemic living"children don't have the luxury of perspective, so changes in the life of a child are monumental." Rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues among adolescents, in particular, have skyrocketed. Even for children who had previously done well academically, focusing on a screen all day has disrupted connections with teachers and classmates, and taken a serious toll. Many pediatricians, child psychologists and psychiatrists are fully booked, and patients at hospital emergency departments may wait for several days because the systems are so inundated. Indeed, hospitals are seeing an increase not only in the number of cases, but also in the severity. For instance, according to yesterday's CT Mirror article on the issue, Connecticut Children's Medical Center "expects to flag 20,000 kids in FY 2021 for suicidal ideation, a tenfold increase."

Although the summertime, increased vaccination rates, and improved COVID-19 metrics across the state may offer some respitetransitioning back to in-person learning will be another anxiety-provoking hurdle for many kids. Monday's Education Week explores what schools can do to help—including hiring more school psychologists and counselors, using telehealth services, training educators on identifying and responding to mental health issues, and investing in social-emotional learning curricula.

Discriminatory Suspensions for Our Youngest Students in School

Last week, Representative Robyn Porter, Kathryn Scheinberg Meyer of the Center for Children's Advocacy, and Sarah Eagan from the Office of the Child Advocate published a joint opinion in CTNewsJunkie. The piece focused on the high rates of suspension among children of color aged 3 to 7. Almost 2,000 Connecticut children in this age group were suspended in the 2018-19 school year, 70% of them children of color. The opinion identifies this ostracization of children as a violation of federal civil rights law and observes that it does nothing to address the underlying issues that cause a child to misbehave. When young children in school act out, they need support, not suspension.

Connecticut Mourning the Loss of Dudley N. Williams, Jr.

This past Friday, the Connecticut civic and business communities were saddened by the news of Dudley Williams' passing. Remembered by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, and others, as a "shining star of public service," Dudley was a community leader and dedicated volunteer, both within Stamford and at the state-level. Amidst his many commitments, he was highly influential in the education reform arena, having served for a decade on the Stamford Board of Education and then been appointed to the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement by former Governor Jodi Rell. He also served on the State Education Cost Sharing Task Force, and on the Boards of the Connecticut Center for School Change, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform and Ready CT. In 2017after retiring as senior vice president of citizenship and diversity from GE Asset Management and becoming CEO of the Mill River Collaborativehe was named Stamford Citizen of the Year. By those who knew him and had the privilege of working with him, he is remembered as having been compassionate, humble, and deeply committed to families and children in our state.

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