The ongoing statewide lockdowns and subsequent school lockdowns are taking a toll of enormous proportions on many parts of the United States. Despite the science and statistics backing the re-opening of schools for mental health, social, and economic reasons, many school districts have bowed under pressure from powerful teachers’ unions to remain closed.
Tragically, in the case of Clark County, Nevada, eighteen students committed suicide between March and December 2020. Clark County, the fifth-largest school district in the country, includes Las Vegas and other cities in southern Nevada, and school district superintendent announced it will re-open its classrooms due to the worsening mental health crisis of its schoolchildren.
Fox News reported that the eighteen suicides were double the amount that the district recorded in 2019. School superintended Jesus Jara said, “When we started to see the uptick in children taking their lives, we knew it wasn’t just the Covid numbers we need[ed] to look at anymore.” Jara added, “We have to find a way to put our hands on our kids, to see them, to look at them. They’ve got to start seeing some movement, some hope.”
The district also noted that it had an alert system on its electronic devices, after it shifted to remote learning through laptop computers and tablets such as iPads. The program, the GoGuardian Beacon system, notifies school officials of ongoing mental health episodes or suicidal thoughts by analyzing writing and search activity. The program reported over 3,100 alerts between June and October, 2020.
Clark County schools trained its teachers to spot mental health cues on screens, in conjunction with school psychologists managing cases and truancy officers conducting wellness checks. The district also had a face-to-face counseling program that intervened in thirty cases of students contemplating suicide.
The school district said it will re-open by March 2021, but a hard date has not been set.
The data has consistently shown that school-aged children are not as susceptible to the coronavirus’s deadly effects as those in the middle-aged and elderly cohorts of the population. Yet school officials and politicians bowed to teachers’ unions pressure to close schools and hold virtual instruction. Poor public policy decision-making created a prolonged mental health crisis, which has resulted in the loss of jobs, livelihoods, homes, and eroding mental health.