NJ schools still face high absenteeism and discipline problems thanks to pandemic

Students in New Jersey and nationwide are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic’s outsized impact on their mental well-being, according to attendance and discipline data released for the 2022-23 academic year by the state Department of Education on Wednesday.

Chronic absenteeism rates and the number of violent and bullying incidents remain higher than before the pandemic, giving schools a lot of work to do in addition to addressing the accompanying problem of learning loss caused by the pandemic.

A student is considered chronically absent if they miss 10% of a 180-day school year.

“These numbers are well above where we were pre-pandemic,” Jessica Merville, data expert and director of the office of performance management, told state Board of Education members, referring to absenteeism data.

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The number of suspensions and incidents of bullying and violence in New Jersey’s public schools went up in academic year 2022-23, with the highest numbers compared to before the pandemic. There were 44,262 cases of removals from school in 2022-23 compared to 36,791 in 2021-22, and 37,964 in 2018-2019. Numbers were not reported for 2019-2020 when schools were closed during the pandemic and students learned remotely.

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