The pandemic has placed elementary students in a unique position: Many have never experienced a “normal” school year. The last time students lived through an uninterrupted, pre-pandemic year was the 2018–19 school year—when current fourth-graders were in the first grade.
This unusual introduction to education is leaving many younger students overwhelmed and struggling with social and emotional skills. One superintendent noted how anxious second-graders were to eat lunch surrounded by their peers—not surprising given the months of isolation and distancing rules these students have experienced. In a national survey of educators, the overwhelming majority (80%) of respondents said the social skills and emotional maturity levels of their current students were less advanced compared to prior to the pandemic in 2019.
The pandemic is having a massive impact on these students. Here at Gaggle, our data has highlighted significant increases in student safety incidents at the elementary level. In our annual report, we detailed the spikes seen for elementary students across the five main categories Gaggle flags:
- Suicide & Self-Harm increased by 252% (from 24 to 86 incidents per 10,000 students)
- Violence Toward Others increased by 346% (from 21 to 94 incidents per 10,000 students)
- Nudity & Sexual Content increased by 362% (from 9 to 44 incidents per 10,000 students)
- Drugs & Alcohol increased by 431% (from 2 to 11 incidents per 10,000 students)
- Harassment increased by 196% (from 9 to 26 incidents per 10,000 students)
With the increasing levels of anxiety and lagging social-emotional skills resulting from the pandemic, our youngest students need additional support. One approach being prioritized to combat these issues is social and emotional learning (SEL), which can help students better manage their emotions. District leaders have noted the many benefits of incorporating SEL, including increased attendance, decreased office referrals, and stronger relationships between students and their teachers.
Our Why Social and Emotional Learning? report highlights the critical importance of SEL in schools. Check out this special report to access SEL examples from K-12 school districts making an impact, trends and insights from educators around the world, and insightful resources to support SEL goals and initiatives. With these tools, educators can help their youngest students gain the habits and coping mechanisms needed to maintain positive mental health.