Minneapolis strike teachers say kids struggle with depression
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Teachers in Minneapolis say they’ve noticed more kids with anxiety and depression. One school counselor says she’s seen more fights and drug use. Some kids tell parents they’re frustrated — because learning stops when teachers have to deal with disruptive students in class.
Increased mental health services for students in Minneapolis, where the problems of the COVID-19 pandemic were compounded by the trauma of George Floyd’s killing, is a key issue for the more than 4,500 educators and support staff who were on strike for a second day Wednesday.
“These kids have been through hell,” said Erika Brask, who has a daughter in the district. And of the teachers, she said: “What we have expected of them is not sustainable.”
“Because there’s not enough mental health support in schools the teachers have to deal with it, and the kids are the ones who suffer,” she said.
The union is seeking reduced caseloads for special education teachers, school psychologists, social workers and counselors. It’s also seeking increased reserves of special education aides and others to help teachers.
Ben Polk, a special education aide, said he deals with understaffing every day.
Polk said he is typically assigned to assist two to three students in a classroom with “very high behavioral needs.” Because there aren’t enough aides to help other students who need support, he often winds up helping six or seven in a classroom of 35.
“That’s not possible for one person to do,” he said. “It’s crowded, everyone suffers. … It’s too intense an environment for the teacher to really do their job and the kids to get the education they’re entitled to.”
Superintendent Ed Graff has acknowledged children and teachers need more mental health support. The district said it is spending some of nearly $90 million in federal COVID-19-relief funding on mental health.
But Graff has said the teachers’ requests — which also include higher wages — would cost roughly $166 million annually beyond what’s currently budgeted. He said the district has a $26 million budget shortfall for next year.
In Minneapolis strike, teachers say kids aren’t all right The Associated Press – en Español
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