DENVER — As schools bring kids back to the classroom, some administrators are seeing an uptick in challenges with students.
From tips to Safe2Tell to vandalism to school property, experts say the new normal of school may be causing even more stress for students who are already anxious from an unprecedented 2020.
The most recent data from Safe2Tell, a statewide anonymous reporting tool designed specifically for adolescents, shows a 37% uptick in August in tips compared to 2020.
Though officials say they are glad students are using the anonymous line, it also shows an increase in cases of distress. The system received 972 tips in August, most of which pertained to suicide threats and harassment.
School administrators in Colorado say they are also seeing an increase in vandalism and harassment prompted by the social media app TikTok. Challenges posted on the app encourage students to damage school property and harass other students and staff.
The Douglas County school district warned students that some of the activities encouraged by the app could lead to jail time.
On Wednesday, a Brighton school had to close because of a fire started in a bathroom. Nobody was hurt and the fire was small. Administrators said they didn't believe the fire was related to the TikTok challenge, but they are investigating.
Belle Creek Charter School near Commerce City also had to shut down Monday and Wednesday after the school received threatening emails.
"We're seeing an increase in stress and increase in difficulties at home for families and kids, as well as an increase for children," said Dr. Tracy Vozar, an assistant professor at Denver University's Graduate School of Professional Psychology. "Children can really have questions and concerns about what they're seeing online or on screens, and they may not know who to talk to about that."
Vozar said the best way to help kids during this tough time of transition is to spend time with them offline, even if it's for a short period of time.
"Kids really did get comfortable learning and interacting on screens. And now they need to, once again, adapt to a new learning environment," she said. "Even five minutes where you're really able to connect with your child in a way that's fun for your child, fun for you, can be very powerful."