At Liberty High School, blood had already been splattered in a corridor only three hours into a recent Monday morning. The principle, Harrison Bailey III, used his walkie-talkie to summon the housekeeping crew to clear up the aftermath of a fight while rushing to the cafeteria in the hopes of averting a repeat of the situation.
Depression and suicide attempts have been documented among high school students around the country, making them one of the most concerning age groups when it comes to mental health deterioration. Compared to prior years, adolescents have failed more courses that are essential to their futures. As a result, graduation rates and college chances have suffered. In addition, as elected officials and public health officials scrambled to get students back to school last winter and spring, the emphasis on getting the youngest and most vulnerable students back to in-person instruction left many high school students behind, with large numbers missing most or all of the 2020-21 academic year.
Beginning on the first day of school return, the school’s wellness centre has been flooded by children suffering from anxiety and sadness. Combat was common by the end of September, and “blank and brazen contempt” was widespread, according to Dr. Bailey. Freshmen and sophomore homecoming pep rallies were postponed in October, in part due to Covid-19 limits and in order to keep crowds to a minimum, according to the university. As of November, the principal was holding an average of one “informal hearing” each day for pupils who had been suspended from school.
There isn’t much hope for Liberty’s employees, either. The absence of just a handful of professors has been documented, but these are not the ones that Dr. Bailey is most concerned about.
Schools leaders say that although disagreements about coronavirus response tactics such as masks and quarantines have dominated discussions about reopening, the day-to-day chores of operating a school have caused the greatest consternation.
Dr. Bailey, who has been the principle of Liberty High School for a decade and is the state’s principal of the year, reminded his employees at the start of the school year that their only goal was to survive the year. According to him, the next year “will be the most challenging period to be in education since we sent children to Vietnam.”
Remote learning has left its mark on Liberty University. As a result, many students are dressed in their pyjamas, a reflection of their interrupted sleep cycles as well as the dress code of their bedrooms transformed into classrooms In the corridors, students walk slowly, their gazes fixed on their phones or straight ahead, as if they were still glued to their computer displays.
Social workers, therapists, bean bag seats, and calming paint hues decorate the wellness centre, which is the most upbeat portion of the school. In order to turn Liberty into a “trauma-informed school,” Dr. Bailey utilised grant money to construct the structure a year and a half ago. It was already being considered as a model for dealing with the mental health issue that was developing in Bethlehem and surrounding areas before the epidemic hit the city.
Dr. Bailey attempted to keep his staff as calm as possible at an administrative hearing in December. The meeting’s agenda consisted of ten things, and as they proceeded through each one, administrators became more irritated with the situation.
Despite the fact that the district had issued a new order requiring athletes to be tested, Dr. Bailey still requested the athletic director of the school to cover three lunch times.