By Algernon Felice

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

School is out, but that’s not necessarily good news for our kids. For the last few years, I’ve noticed an increase in the numbers of in-school and out-of-school suspensions just prior to summer break. This jump in unruly behaviors among the kids, primarily at the primary and middle-school levels, I initially ascribed to the normal and expected excitement of the coming “get out of school free” card.

On closer observation, however, I could see a clear distinction between two types of behaviors. One group of kids showed restless behaviors. They couldn’t sit still, they had poor concentration, they were hypertalkative, and they skipped class. They just wanted summer to start. The other group demonstrated depression-anxiety behaviors. They fidgeted with their clothes, they held their heads down, and they acted aggressively against other students. They didn’t want summer to start.

I spoke with a few teachers, two counselors and two principals to get their take on the situation. They confirmed what I had been seeing. For some children, the idea of taking a break from school is anxiety provoking.

Why might that be?

It turns out that academics is only one aspect of what school represents for our children.

For many of our children school represents a place of physical safety, emotional safety, age and peer-appropriate socialization, and an opportunity to get a meal.

The fact that many of our young students dread the thought of being home for the summer is heart-wrenching.

We need to consider leaving our schools open for the summer, partly staffed, so that students who have no safe place to go can stay at this refuge. We need summer-long community activities to be expanded and fully funded. We need to keep our children fed, involved and safe.

Yes, it’s come to that.

Algernon Felice is CEO of Cultural Bridges LLC, a consulting firm that works with schools, school districts, universities, individuals and businesses in the creation of marketing strategies aimed at engaging social and ethnic minority populations.


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