Domestic Violence doesn't stop at the Classroom Door
With schools back in session, parents and children prepare for a productive and fun school year by buying the best school supplies and technology, clothes and enrolling in fun educational activities. Parents talk to their children about many issues to provide a safe and healthy learning environment. Schools and teachers provide resources for parents and children. One topic that is not usually connected with back to school is domestic violence. How does domestic violence affect a child’s education and school experience? It affects each child in more ways than we think. We often believe that domestic violence only affects the individuals involved and is more of a private matter. But the reality is that domestic violence is a public health issue and has far reaching repercussions that affects all of us in some way. 1 in 3 women regardless of background experience domestic violence which means many children are growing up in a household with physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. During the Summer, children don’t have the safety of the classroom to run away to. In the past year and a half a large percentage of children and adults have been home due to the covid-19 pandemic. This isolation has had a negative effect on children especially those in abusive households. As children return to school they bring with them the trauma and adverse effects of the abuse with them, compounded by the stress of the pandemic. Many will have difficulty paying attention, completing their assignments, or partaking in healthy socializing. Young children will often act out with bad behavior such as bullying, disrupting the learning environment for all. Domestic violence does not stop at the door of the classroom, and it is an issue all of us should be addressing for the benefit of all children and adults. A disrupted learning environment because of domestic violence has long lasting ripple effects that will negatively impact test scores, placement, graduation rates, and earning potential.
What can be done to help children? Schools can provide resources to parents about domestic violence so more feel comfortable seeking help. Resource packets sent home at the beginning of the school year should include information about domestic violence and how to get help. School administrators can bring in experts from domestic violence agencies to provide information and training to staff and teachers about domestic violence and its effects on their students. Teachers can play an important role in intervening and helping students if they are given the training. Parents can advocate for more mental health resources for schools including hiring counselors especially at the elementary level. Trained counselors can help students cope with their trauma or learn anger management. This resource is more critical for everyone to process the stress and isolation of the pandemic.
These interventions will help all children whether they come from a healthy home or an abusive one. When domestic violence is stopped, parents, children, teachers, and society progresses and thrives.