Recent Incidents of Violence in Mass. Schools Raise Questions for Parents

Advocates say students are struggling with mental health as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic

NBC Universal, Inc.

From high school stabbings in Brockton, Malden and Methuen; to a student attacked by classmates in Fall River; to a possible hate crime in a Wilmington High School bathroom; to fights at high schools in Haverhill, Medford and Lawrence; there have been a number of recent violent incidents at Massachusetts schools.

"Our kids are emotionally raw right now, and they're crying out for help," said Keri Rodrigues, founder of Massachusetts Parents United. "When you see bullying, and you see this kind of activity going on, there's something going on beyond the surface."

She says students are struggling with mental health as they emerge from the pandemic.

"For the last 24 months, parents and families and communities have been really sounding the alarm, saying our kids are not alright," said Rodrigues. "This is a mental health crisis."

Still, despite all the high-profile incidents, it's too early to tell how the 2021-2022 school year will look compared to past years when it comes to school violence.

"There are more stories coming out recently about school violence and aggression occurring in school, but we just don't yet have good data to know if these are anecdotes or if these are trends that we should be concerned about," said Boston University Wheelock College of Education Professor Jennifer Greif Green, who researches school mental health and bullying. "I think what we do know pretty clearly is that there has been an uptick in mental health problems among students and the need for mental health supports and services."

She says acting out is a common response to trauma, which can be tied, in many cases, to the pandemic.

"It can be harder to move back into their typical environment," said Green. "And the expectation that they're going to return to school, and be sitting in classrooms, and ready to learn, may not match where many of them are right now and what they need in their lives."

Contact Us