EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A family violence incident that turned into a SWAT situation on Monday raised questions about what could be done for students facing domestic abuse and who are unable to go back to school.
”We are aware of the fact that the numbers have escalated significantly since students have stayed at home,” said Xavier De La Torre, superintendent of the Ysleta Independent School District.
The student involved in Monday’s incident attends one of the schools in the YISD district, but because of privacy reasons, the exact school is not being identified.
The 6-year-old student reported a domestic assault to his teacher while participating in online learning, which prompted the teacher to call 911.
De La Torre said more cases of family violence are reported across the district and across El Paso.
He explained that usually the schools would be the ones to report the abuse to agencies such as Child Protective Services, but now, the agencies are notifying schools that their students are a part of violent households.
“This is the very dark side of the pandemic, where we have lost some control when it comes to helping these students,” said De La Torre, adding that counseling services are still available, but can be challenging for students to speak up since they are at home and lack privacy.
De La Torre said the teacher’s action was expected since teachers are mandated reporters by law and are obligated to report any suspicion of domestic abuse.
He said that the pandemic lockdown has greatly affected children, who may not be able to find a safe place in school and who are away from their friends. He believes the lockdown has caused a decline in the mental health of children and teenagers, who that are now dealing with anxiety and depression.
“It’s a big reason why we want them back as soon as it is safe for them to come back,” said De La Torre, who believes the situation would get better if students were back in class, but said that he is leaving it up to parents to decide what is best for their children.
Domestic violence hidden behind phone and computer screens is harder to observe, but not impossible to recognize.
Sandra Nevarez Garcia, executive director of Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, said to pay attention when video chatting with loved ones.
Nevarez Garcia said “if there are any visible injuries, off explanations for those visible injuries or maybe they are usually on camera and they are not coming on camera anymore,” you should be concerned.
She suggested asking the person to talk about private matters so they can leave to another room that is more private or try calling when they are away from an abusive partner.
CASFV is still operating regularly and offers shelter for victims of abuse, as well as non-residential services such as counseling.
The facilities are equipped with internet, allowing residents to work remotely and students to attend school online.