Social media trends and “resocialization” challenges might be fueling an increase in student behavioral problems, Monte del Sol Charter School head learner Zoë Nelsen said Thursday.
Nelsen’s comments came a day after an anonymous threat of gun violence was discovered at the school; it was the third threat found in a local school bathroom in October. Nelsen said some behavioral problems this year are fueled by trends seen on social media applications like TikTok, while others could result from students returning to the classroom after months of remote learning.
“All of our seventh and eighth graders are essentially new to the campus this year, as opposed to just our seventh graders. So that’s a significant resocialization,” Nelsen said of the Santa Fe school for students in seventh through 12th grades.
Some Monte del Sol students stayed home Thursday. School and city police were investigating the threat, which resulted in a brief lockdown before students were sent home at 1:30 p.m.
Two similar threats were found in bathrooms at Pojoaque Valley School District.
One was a bomb threat later determined to be a hoax. In the other, Pojoaque Valley Middle School staff found a pink note Oct. 5 that read, “I’m going to shoot up the school on 10/8/21 if you want to live ‘skip.’ ”
The note prompted an immediate shelter-in-place notice for the school, followed by a supervised release of students before the end of the school day.
A 13-year-old boy is listed as a suspect on an incident report from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. It’s unknown if that student was suspended; neither Superintendent Sondra Adams nor district Security Director Gary Johnson could be reached for comment Thursday.
The Pojoaque threats were preceded by a series of suspensions among high school students: four in late September for fighting, and seven, all involving football players, in response to hazing allegations. The football player suspensions were later dropped on the order of a First Judicial District Court judge, who called for a school hearing for the players.
Anecdotally, reports of behavioral issues are up since students have returned to understaffed schools for in-person learning this year, according to educational news organization ChalkBeat.
“We’re really operating on a lack of manpower this year,” said Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Scott Elder. He added that some long-term substitute teachers filling vacant spots aren’t as familiar with specific students or conflict-resolution techniques.
The Albuquerque district has seen more intense and more frequent student fights this school year, Elder said. At the start of the year, one student fatally shot another at Washington Middle School.
Amid the emotional release of homecoming dances and live sports as classes return in person, “kids were very emotional about that, but we’ve also seen some negative responses as well,” Elder said.
Mario Salbidrez, security director at Santa Fe Public Schools, said administrators expected issues as they entered the school year.
The district has received other threats similar to the one at Monte del Sol, Salbidrez said. He declined to elaborate except to say there had been no “major threats.”
“We’re seeing concerns of bullying, drug abuse or fights, those kinds of items are what we’re seeing more,” he said.
Some concerns are sent to Say Something, the district’s anonymous reporting system. The system was designed by gun violence prevention organization Sandy Hook Promise, and Santa Fe Public Schools is using it as part of a three-year pilot project.
Say Something gives students several options for anonymously reporting a range of issues, such as anxiety among classmates and suspicions of domestic violence. It went live districtwide in January 2020.
Salbidrez said it has received 16 tips since students returned to the classroom in August.