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Albuquerque, NM: District sees rise in "violence and bad behavior"

Sept 17, 2021, KRQE, Albuquerque, NM: APS seeing a rise in violence and bad behavior among students

The superintendent of the state’s largest school district says violence and bad behavior is on the rise in schools. Now, Albuquerque Public Schools is sharing this warning with parents: keep an eye on your kids. APS Superintendent Scott Elder says while they don’t know exactly why kids are suddenly acting up more, they have their ideas – and need the community’s help to stop it. This comes after more than a year of virtual and hybrid learning since the pandemic began.

“I think it’s probably related to the fact that for a lot of these kids, for example, our freshmen, last time they had a full year of school, they were 7th graders,” said Elder. “They lost a lot of socialization time, they lost a lot of coping skill time. A lot of these students received specialized services from us that may have been more difficult during the pandemic.”

The district says “extreme behaviors” are on the rise — from fights to shootings like the one that killed a Washington Middle School student the first week of the school year, and even vandalism, fueled by a new social media trend. It’s part of the reason Superintendent Elder sent out a letter Thursday, reaching out directly to the district’s parents and guardians.

“I don’t think parents are really aware of that,” said Elder. “The letter was sent out to help parents know what is going on so they can have conversations with their children.”

While the district doesn’t know exactly why it’s happening, they believe coming back in person is emotional for students — and they’re releasing that emotion in both positive and negative ways. Elder says it’s a reflection of the behaviors seen across the country during the pandemic. “Our city is struggling with issues, schools are reflections of the community,” said Elder. “Our students are seeing the same thing we’re seeing in the news and they reflect it.” Elder, who previously served in the district as a teacher for years, says staff monitor student behavior and do welfare checks. However, they still need the help of those at home who see the children outside of the classroom. “I also think we should be encouraging our students and teach them how to more properly address conflict and how to address concerns. The school and staff is there to support and work with these kids,” said Elder. “We don’t want to punish kids. We want to work with and educate them, but we have to have a safe environment in which to do it, so some of our kids are choosing to make it a little less safe and that needs to stop.”

Despite a challenging beginning to the first school year to start in-person since 2019, Elder believes students and schools will work through this with time, but says school safety is a shared responsibility. APS says, like many law enforcement agencies across the area, they’re also short on workers — down 11 officers and 18 campus security aides. Elder is encouraging students and employees to report any possible threats to Crime Stoppers, where they can remain anonymous.


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