Student discipline and mental health trends have been moving in the wrong direction for the last decade in Cy-Fair ISD, officials said at the Aug. 3 board work session.

The update is the first since an August 2022 discipline report indicated district discipline cases increased 224% from 2017-18 to 2021-22, Community Impact previously reported. At that time, mental health experts said the stress, trauma and isolation students faced during the COVID-19 pandemic may have caused them to act out.

Zooming in

Ify Ogwumike, assistant superintendent for student services, presented the discipline statistics from the last five years, including a 15% increase in discipline cases since 2018-19. The 2022-23 school year included:
  • 41,050 students sent to in-school suspension
  • 16,609 students sent to out-of-school suspension
  • 40 students expelled from the district
What the experts say

Upon the return to in-person classes following the pandemic lockdown, COVID-19 was identified as a proverbial “truck” that hit faculty, staff and students, said Wes Baker, a psychologist with CFISD’s mental health intervention team.

The Hanover Research Group recently conducted a comprehensive analysis of the district’s discipline data for the last five years. The firm helps school districts with academic recovery and operational effectiveness to overcome setbacks in test scores and mental health challenges, according to its website.

The analysis revealed that while there was a spike in misbehavior, it was also a long-term problem coming to fruition during that time.

“When we take a look at behavioral trends and mental health trends of the preceding 20 years before COVID[-19], we can see that we've been staring at a looming mental and behavioral health crisis for the better part of two decades. And that's just been exacerbated by COVID[-19],” Baker said.

The big picture

Baker identified the following national trends, citing data from the education consulting firm Education Advisory Board and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  • The student suicide rate increased by 57% from 2011 to 2015.
  • From 2011 to 2015, student emergency room visits for mental health and behavioral crises increased by 28%.
  • From 2011 to 2019, classroom absences due to students “feeling unsafe” increased by 50%.
  • 20% of students report an increase in anxiety, and 25% report an increase in depression following the pandemic's onset.
Baker said the data shows a parallel between the advent of social media and youth behavioral issues.

“We know that social media use among our youth is quite pronounced and growing. And although correlation doesn't equal causation, we know that we can associate increased social media use with decreased mental health in youth in particular with regard to self image,” Baker said.

Baker said just having access to social media was not likely the issue, but an increase in cyberbullying as well as social aggression through social media was a factor. He said challenges students are facing may be partly individual and partly environmental, including home, school and community.

What parents should know

In its latest report, Mental Health America ranked Texas as the worst state for access to mental health care, Baker said. However, telehealth appointments are available to students through the state-sponsored program called the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine, or TCHATT.

CFISD’s student services department monitors all classroom incidents that result in a student’s removal. In addition, the CFISD counseling and psychological services department studies student behavior in the district to identify ways to better support students' mental health.