There are so many aspects of a child’s life that their parents’ gauge to ensure well-being and happiness. What can sometimes be missed: a toxic school environment. School dynamics, be they with other students or teachers, can take a significant toll on kids. So what are some warning flags for which parents be on the lookout? Several educators and a child psychologist gave Parentology their input.
Why Toxic Environments Flourish
Cliff Mayotte spent several years working as a teacher, curriculum designer, and program director. “I’ve seen toxic school cultures flourish when schools aren’t fully committed to culturally relevant content and building skills of empathy, communication, and connection within students,” he tells Parentology. “This contributes to sharp young minds shutting down.”
When it comes to bullying, aggression thrives in schools where teachers and other faculty members do nothing. Even worse, there have been instances where teachers themselves are the bullies.
Signs of Toxic Environments
Because these problems occur outside the home, it may be difficult for parents to pick up on the signs and intervene in time. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development provides red flags to look out for. Parents can keep an eye out for these when evaluating schools:
- A stronger focus on self-preservation over collaborative efforts
- Greater focus on enforcing rules than serving the community
- Concentrated power among a select few
Rosalind Schoppet, EdD, is the founder of Pathways Preschool in Tempe, Arizona. She believes parents should pay special attention to communication. “Do you see healthy interaction between the students and the teachers? Between students?”
Taking it a step further, Schoppet says, “How about communication between administrators and teachers? How well does the school communicate with the families or the community as a whole? Do the teachers listen to their students?”
Effects on the Students
Dr. Virginia Boga, a child psychologist, weighs in on how a toxic school environment can impact children, telling Parentology, “If they experience a toxic environment, it can make them view themselves in a negative manner depending [on] what’s going on at school.”
Boga advises parents pay attention to comments children make. Does their child complain about or avoid going to school? These may be signs of issues.
What Parents Can Do
Schoppet recommends turning to community resources for safe environments to support children looking to heal. At venues like museums, libraries and zoos, parents can actively develop an enthusiasm in their child for the learning process.
Enrolling children in extracurricular activities often has positive effects. Not only do children pick up skills, they make new friends and nurture better communication. Forbes adds that extracurricular activities lead to better grades, higher self-esteem and healthier habits.
Parents may not always spot the signs of a toxic school environment right away. Keeping an eye out for signals and engaging children in conversations about their day, though, will find them keeping their fingers on the pulse of their child’s school environment.
How To Spot a Toxic School Environment — Sources
Cliff Mayotte, Voice of Witness
Rosalind Schoppet, Ed. D., Pathways Preschool
Virginia Boga, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist
Forbes: Back To School: Investing In Kids’ Extracurricular Activities
ASCD: 10 Signs of a Toxic School Culture