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As schools reopen, are teachers prepared to meet the emotional needs of all their students?

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As debates around reopening schools heat up, parents and teachers can’t afford to ignore the social and emotional crisis threatening to overwhelm America’s children.

A recent report from Mental Health America tells a saddening story: the proportion of kids aged 11-17 who accessed depression and anxiety screenings in 2020 rose 9% over the year before. And that’s just the ones who asked for help: it doesn’t account for kids with underlying emotional and developmental disabilities exacerbated by the pandemic, nor does it wholly capture the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on students of color and those in under-resourced communities.

What’s clear, however, is that 2020 has exacerbated the crisis of diminishing empathy amongst American teens. “As anxiety increases, empathy wanes,” Dr. Michele Borba observed in her bestselling book, “Unselfie.” “It’s hard to feel for others when you’re in ‘survival mode.’” This “all-about-me” attitude, decades of research shows, leads to more bullying, dishonesty, suicide and school violence.

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