NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Tennessee Department of Education released its Initial COVID-19 Impact Report, highlighting the impact the COVID-19 extended school closure has had on the wellbeing of students across the state.
While state officials say the full extent of the pandemic's impact on children is not yet known, the department found these key trends:
- Economic, physical, and mental health are interconnected and during times of crisis, may contribute to childhood adversity. Childhood adversity can have long-term chronic physical and mental health-related impacts, such as depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse and lung disease.
- Experienced family stress, such as unemployment, may contribute to increased rates of domestic violence, substance abuse, and child abuse as was evident during previous national disasters and crises.
- Nationally, the pandemic has impacted populations disproportionately, raising concern of a widening equity gap.
- In Tennessee, during peak stay-at-home orders, reports of suspected child abuse dropped by 27%, in large part due to mandatory reporters, such as teachers and pediatricians, being disconnected from children and families.
- 76% of Tennessee district leaders and 55% of public responders identified technology and hardware as a top COVID-19 related need.
"COVID-19 has had a massive impact on all aspects of our lives, particularly the education of students. Many of the real challenges we faced pre-pandemic have only been exacerbated in the past few months, and they require a thoughtful, long-term strategy," said Gov. Lee in a press release. "The findings in this report will help inform the Child Wellbeing Task Force's efforts to best support Tennessee's students, families, and educators in the months ahead."
Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn along, the 38-member COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force created the report along with Governor Bill Lee, Tennessee agencies, and other national experts. The department says the goal of the Task Force is to ensure that the needs of Tennessee children are met during and after extended periods away from school and to empower local communities to meaningfully engage in ways that support child wellbeing.
“Schools play a critical role in supporting students’ physical and mental health, and we have seen more students have gone hungry, suicide rates have increased, abuse cases have gone unreported, and critical health and counseling services have halted due to the global pandemic,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn in a press release. “The work of the Child Wellbeing Task Force, in partnership with state and local leaders, is essential to ensuring the academic and non-academic needs of our kids are met as we continue to fight this virus together.”