Student Social Emotional Needs re: Covid

School District of Philadelphia Board of Education Action Meeting Testimony

January 26, 2023

by Lynda Rubin

My topic is Student Social/Emotional Needs after Covid and I will speak to that. However, I must address the Speaker Notification problem. I was notified on Tuesday that I could not speak but would be notified by 4:00 – 4:30 pm on Wednesday if that changed — and I wasn’t. I received an email this morning sent at 7:15 am, that I could speak but which I didn’t see until later and could have missed it. This only highlights the failures of the Speaker Notification Policy.

Now – Trauma and Violence post Covid.
I was moved to speak today by Tuesday’s Inquirer article about increased stress and violence in schools after Covid. School Safety Chief Keven Bethel stated, “It’s happening on a regular basis, and we’re worried.” The look in his eyes in the photo was telling. I like and respect Kevin Bethel and I know that he – and you – care. Our families and staff have suffered death, illness, financial and work insecurity, stress for the future that we don’t yet understand, and especially the effects that months of isolation have on our psyches and coping skills. Inner-city families have been hit hardest. We are a social, interacting species that learns through contact with others. The social-emotional growth, confidence and self-concept of children and teens, especially, has been at best, interrupted, if not altered. Trauma results in unknown sorrow, depression, fear and anger – from lack of confidence and joy that things are going to be OK.I’m not denigrating Kooth, on-line self-help or Flourish PD. They might be good ancillary programs. But in crisis, they will not replace increased staff in schools to help kids work thru their fears and anger – as they are acted on. Children and teens learn to trust and respond from such interaction and familiarity over time. They open up to people  they trust – over time. They learn to help other kids – over time. But it has to be an on-going presence in every school with immediate response – at least to help them calm down so the anger doesn’t escalate and they can return to class. Families react well also when they believe they and their kids are being cared for and supported regularly.