Connecticut High School Resumes In-Person Learning, Only to Realize Pandemic Measures are an Effective Way to Avoid Dealing with Student Misbehavior


A Connecticut high school that recently resumed full in-person learning for the first time since the onset of the pandemic sent students home temporarily for remote learning, blaming issues with misbehavior.

New Britain High School, in suburban Hartford, is “hitting the refresh button” and will restart the school year, Principal Damon Pearce wrote in a letter late Tuesday to students and families.

Pearce initially said instruction would be done remotely through the end of this week, but the district later notified parents that students would be welcome back Thursday for a half-day.

A meeting was planned later Wednesday with the mayor and district leaders.

Vilmaris Diaz said the switch left her daughter, a junior at the high school, in disbelief. Diaz said her daughter much prefers in-person learning and that the change left families, including hers, scrambling to rework their schedules.

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“I’m assuming the behavior we are dealing with may be slightly worse than what we’ve had in the past because of the pandemic, and kids’ adjustments, but I don’t think it was a reason for us to attempt to go remote for three days,” Diaz said.

Mayor Erin Stewart said she was told the school made its decision because of difficulties controlling student behavior, particularly vandalism and fighting.

“I’m disappointed in this decision, it’s not fair to the majority of students who behave respectfully and want to be in school to learn,” Stewart, a Republican, said in a Facebook post.

She said rule-breakers should face consequences, including removal from school, and she offered the assistance of the New Britain police.

Should the school have remained open?

As students return to schools after a year and a half of learning disrupted by the pandemic, many districts have reported issues with behavior, including vandalism promoted by a viral TikTok challenge.

Since New Britain’s school year started two weeks ago, high-schoolers have had to adjust to being around more than 2,000 other students, Pearce said.

Many did not come into school buildings at all last year because of the coronavirus. Those who did show up attended a school that had fewer than 500 students present most of the year.

The problems involve a small minority of students, school officials said.

Superintendent Nancy Sarra said in a letter to families last week that educators were working to help students handle conflict peacefully.

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Sarra’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Eric Scoville, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said the district’s actions conflicted with state guidance that does not recommend a move to full remote learning.

He said there have been discussions with local officials and the state will provide help responding to the behavioral health needs identified by the district.

In his letter Tuesday, Pearce urged parents to speak with their children about “acceptable and appropriate behavior” in school.

The principal later acknowledged confusion over the announcement of the switch to remote learning.

In a letter announcing that students would be coming back Thursday, he said school staff used the opportunity of the remote day Wednesday to address some of the student needs observed at the high school.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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