The kids are not okay

The memes going around the internet in the early days of the pandemic, as schools and daycares shut down, made it clear: the parents are not okay.

A year and a half later, as society reopens, it is becoming increasingly clear: The kids are not okay, either.

In a shocking and tragic incident this week, Patricia Lampron, the principal of the Dr. William Henderson Inclusion School in Dorchester, ordered a 16-year-old girl to leave the school grounds. The girl began punching her in the head, beating Lampron unconscious, according to a report in the Boston Globe. The school serves many students with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities, and the attack shocked the school community.

Parent Dalida Rocha told the Globe that she worried the school had not done enough to prepare students to return after the long pandemic-related closure. “We haven’t done a good job as a society to help children to deal with the traumatic experiences they have gone through with the pandemic,” she said.

Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez voiced similar fears last month amid an uptick of violence at Lawrence High School. The Eagle-Tribune reported that two teens were arrested and a dozen more issued summonses for disorderly conduct after an assault on a male teacher and a spate of fights at the school. Vasquez said the year-long break from school “took a mental and emotional toll” on students and educators, and it will take attention and resources to address that.

The impacts are not felt only through violence. The Gloucester Daily Times said local districts are struggling to address chronic absenteeism. While the paper did not give a reason, this may indicate that students are struggling, fearful, or simply out of the habit of regular school attendance.

Older students in college are not immune from the educational turmoil. Worcester Polytechnic Institute is reeling from four student deaths, two of which were by suicide. The Telegram & Gazette reported that some students feel the administration is not doing enough to address students’ mental health.

Health care providers have long been talking about a mental health crisis among children. Emergency department beds are filled with children in crisis waiting for inpatient psychiatric treatment. As of October 25, there were 191 kids with behavioral health problems “boarding,” waiting for an inpatient bed, according to the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association.

In a recent interview with CommonWealth, Jennifer Cox, director of behavioral health at Baystate Health, said every system serving children is taxed to capacity, likely because of the pandemic. “I don’t think anyone has seen as many kids seeking behavioral health care in emergency departments as there are right now,” Cox said. “Even if it’s not directly related to something COVID-related, just the general disruption and stress of the last two years probably created a huge wave of downstream effects.”

The approval of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for children this week will minimize the threat of COVID to children’s physical health. Helping children, teens, and young adults regain their mental health after the last year-and-a-half will be a far more difficult challenge.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

A Mariano priority: House Speaker Ron Mariano signals a new regulatory approach to helping community hospitals, pledging a bill will emerge from committee over the next few weeks giving the Health Policy Commission the authority to analyze the impact of proposed hospital expansions on existing smaller hospitals.

— The impetus for the bill is Mass General Brigham’s plan to build new ambulatory care centers in Westborough, Westwood, and Woburn. Many hospitals in those areas fear Mass General Brigham will lure away patients with higher-paying commercial insurance and leave the local facilities even more reliant on patients with lower-paying public insurance. The bill would require the Health Policy Commission to do a market analysis and make a recommendation to the Department of Public Health, which must approve all expansions.

“What we want to do is preserve community hospitals as a low-cost alternative to care,” Mariano said. “The best way to do that is keep infringement into their catchment area at a minimum so it doesn’t disrupt the financial structure of the reimbursement rates.” Read more.

Kid shots are here: More than 500 locations will carry the new COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5-12. Gov. Charlie Baker says there will be no supply shortage. Read more.

Hydro project stalled: With a hydroelectric transmission line caught in political crossfire in Maine, energy industry officials meeting at a conference in Boston raise concerns about the region’s ability to build the infrastructure necessary to address climate change. Read more.

OPINION

Schools makeover: All Children Thrive of Boston rolls out a 100-day plan for Michelle Wu to lead Boston’s schools in a new direction. Read more.

‘Meeting the moment’: If you missed Wu’s victory speech on Tuesday night, you can read it here

 

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Will he or won’t he? All eyes are on Charlie Baker and what’s expected to be an announcement soon on whether he’ll run for a third term next year. (Boston Globe

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Asked about the issue following the attack on a Dorchester school principal by a 16-year-old student, Mayor-elect Michelle Wu said she still opposes stationing police officers in Boston schools. (Boston Herald) A police report said the 61-year-old principal, Patricia Lampron, was unconscious for four minutes following the pummeling. (Boston Globe

Tired of repeated power failures, Hull officials ask the state to investigate National Grid’s maintenance of transmission lines and fine the company. (Patriot Ledger)

A former Braintree teacher who was photographed at the US Capitol during the January 6 riots wins election to the town’s school board. (MassLive)

In the western Massachusetts town of Monterey, town government is in disarray. “It’s never been as mean and retaliative,” said Select Board Chairman Steven Weisz. “It just seems to be spinning out of control. I feel like the captain of the Titanic and I just noticed that the carpet is wet.” (Berkshire Eagle)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Experts work to better understand “Long COVID” and figure out how to treat it. (MassLive)

COVID deaths in New Bedford surged in August and September, something public experts attribute to the city’s low vaccination rate of 50 percent, nearly 20 points lower than the state average. (New Bedford Light

ELECTIONS

“A guy who enjoys wrestling and speaks Spanish is Lynn’s mayor-elect — Oh, and he’s a double Ivy Leaguer. Who would have figured someone fitting that description could have been the voters’ choice even four years ago?” asks Thor Jourgensen. (Daily Item)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Business groups say the House and Senate’s ARPA plans don’t do enough to reimburse the unemployment insurance trust fund. (Salem News)

With a shortage of snowplow drivers, some communities are offering drivers up to $155 an hour. (MassLive)

Shares of Cambridge-based Moderna fell 18 percent on an earnings report saying sales this year would be much lower than projected. But the COVID vaccine maker is hardly on the ropes, expecting $15 billion to $18 billion in worldwide sales. (Boston Globe

EDUCATION

After a year-and-a-half without regular school, some districts are struggling with chronic absenteeism. (Gloucester Daily News)

ARTS/CULTURE

An American Legion Post in Winchendon is auctioning off its Norman Rockwell painting, which is valued at between $4 million and $7 million. (Telegram & Gazette)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A worker with a long criminal record got a job at Hogan Regional Center in Danvers, a home for developmentally disabled people, where the worker shoved a resident into a wall, causing his paralysis, prosecutors say. The man ultimately died. (Salem News)

MEDIA

PRX, backed by funding from the Barr Foundation, launches a podcast initiative in Gateway Cities. (Nieman Journalism Lab)

PASSINGS

Aaron Feuerstein of Brookline, the former owner of Malden Mills, who famously continued to pay his workers after a fire idled the mill, dies at 95. (Reuters)