School Closures are Harmful

In May, SF Parents (formerly Decreasing the Distance) released a report detailing how school closures harmed San Francisco students: “A Year of Harm and Counting: San Francsico’s Ongoing Public School Failure.” 

Since May, several national studies have been released that sadly reinforce the harms we saw locally.

  • The pandemic is widening educational inequality and learning gaps created by the crisis will persist as students progress through high school, putting their future prospects at risk.
  • An overall decline in average test scores between 2020 and 2021. School districts with less in-person instruction exhibit steeper declines. Math and reading passing rates were lowest in poor areas and that going from fully virtual to fully in person counteracted the low math passing rates by 10 percentage points.

One million students expected to be in school didn’t show up in person or online at all, with the largest declines in the youngest learners and in families living below the federal poverty line.

Citing mounting evidence of ongoing harm, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued a public health advisory on the mental health challenges confronting youth, a rare warning and call to action to address what he called an emerging crisis exacerbated by pandemic hardships.

  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety have doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety symptoms. 
  • In early 2021, emergency department visits in the United States for suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher for adolescent girls and 4% higher for adolescent boys compared to the same time period in early 2019, according to research.