San Francisco Chronicle
S.F. officials announce plan to curb youth violence
“The violence we are seeing among young people is tragic and unacceptable.” Supervisor Myrna Melgar
A recent spurt of violence among San Francisco young people has pushed city and education officials into action, with promises to boost resources and efforts to stem the stabbings, brawls and weapons at schools that have parents and community members worried.
District and city leaders announced plans Tuesday to attack the problem from all angles, including expanding several programs to prevent school and street violence, increasing mental health support, and boosting law enforcement or other adult intervention on buses and in schools and other hot spots.
Last week, the city saw a stabbing in one middle school and a gun confiscated at another, as well as a stabbing on a Muni bus and a pair of violent brawls at Stonestown mall involving dozens of adolescents and teens, with at least two people injured.
“The violence we are seeing among young people is tragic and unacceptable,” Supervisor Myrna Melgar said in a statement Tuesday. “The youth who are sparking this violence must see that there are consequences for their actions, and account for the harm they are causing to their victims, but also to the community and the mall workers.”
Melgar noted that young people at the scene recorded and posted the violence on social media, “eliciting likes, and more followers.”
“We must instead provide these young people with healthy and safe activities after school,” she said.
Some in the community questioned whether the district’s schedule that includes a shorter school day on Wednesdays could be contributing to problems. Spokespersons for Brookfield Properties, which owns the Stonestown mall, said management has observed an increase of youth-related issues on those days.
District spokesperson Laura Dudnick declined to address those claims, saying only “early release days are not new and have been in place since before this current school year.” They offer educators time for planning and professional development, she added. “It is also important to note that SFUSD only has jurisdiction for incidents that occur on campus or are related to school activities.”
It’s unclear whether the recent incidents reflect a larger trend among the school-aged demographic in the city or across the state.
Yet across the country, teachers say that student violence overall has more than doubled since the pandemic began and that they are “increasingly the target of disruptive behavior in the classroom,” according to a survey released in February by education research firm EAB in Washington, D.C.
The survey also found that 84 percent of teachers believe students now lack the ability to self-regulate and build relationships compared with peers before the pandemic.
Nearly 75 percent of school leaders say staffing shortfalls are the biggest hurdle in addressing student behavior, according to the survey.
In San Francisco, schools are struggling to address the needs of students amid a teacher, substitute and counselor shortage — a combination that often leaves administrators and support staff filling in for math class rather than working to stem behavioral issues, officials said.
More recently, persistent rain has forced administrators to keep students inside, perhaps contributing to tension and outbursts and other behavioral issues.
In terms of the juvenile justice system, however, there is little indication of a growing crisis.
The population at San Francisco’s juvenile hall has ticked up in the past year, with an average of 23 individuals held there in November, the most recent official data available, compared with a low of 12 in July. The numbers fluctuate daily, with a low of 10 in April 2021 and a high of 27 in November last year.
As of Tuesday, there were 22 young adults and teens in the hall, including six that would have been held in a state youth prison before the state’s decision to shift the most serious offenders back to county facilities. The numbers are still well below the 120 or more youths housed in juvenile hall just 15 years ago.