Every Monday morning at Harvie Elementary School, in Henrico County, Va., Brett Welch stands outside her office door as kids file in.
“The first thing I’m looking for are the faces,” says Welch, a school counselor. She’s searching for hints of fear, pain or anger.
“Maybe there was a domestic incident at the house that weekend,” says Welch. “That’s reality for a lot of our kids.”
And a reality for a lot of kids in the U.S. While it’s difficult to get an exact number, researchers estimate that between 10 and 20 percent of children are exposed to domestic violence each year.
New data quantifies what many teachers and school counselors already know: While such violence often takes place outside of school, its repercussions resonate in the classroom.
It hurts not only the kids who witness the violence, but also their classmates. The harm is evident in lower test scores as well as lower rates of college attendance and completion. And the impact extends past graduation — it can be seen in lower earnings later in life.
“It’s a sad story,” says Scott Carrell, economist at the University of California, Davis, who has studied this for over a decade.
But, he says, there’s one thing he and his colleagues – economists Mark Hoekstra and Elira Kuka – found that can improve the situation “not only for that family but for all the child’s classmates.” What was it? Reporting domestic violence when it happens.
Violence At Home. Disruption At School.
Brett Welch says she’s noticed that kids who act out at school often come from tough home situations.
“Instead of asking for help, they’ll start being disruptive,” Welch explains.
“They’ll ask to go to the bathroom for the 15th time. And when they can’t, they’ll raise their voices. It can get to the level of throwing a chair – but that’s very …