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Back-to-school season has some parents struggling with "school refusal" among grade school students

How parents can cope with kids' school avoidance
How parents can cope with kids' school avoidance 02:10

NEW YORK -- The back-to-school season has many parents struggling with "school refusal" among their kids in kindergarten through 12th grade after the pandemic pushed the already growing problem of school avoidance sky high.

CBS2's Dave Carlin found out how parents can best deal with it and what school districts are doing to offer even more reassurance.

Audrey Fitzpatrick, of Hell's Kitchen, strolled past the elementary school her son Dan and daughter Isla will attend starting Sept. 8. Her two kids have different reactions to it.

"He would stay home with me for the rest of his life if he could," Fitzpatrick said.

There are signs, though, that he will settle in and like school.

But for some other parents, much more heightened cases of school avoidance can stress out the entire family.

"So first off, you have the kids who always have the school avoidance issues, and now that they've been home, it's, like, further entrenched and more difficult to get them back," said Jayne Demsky, founder of the School Avoidance Alliance. "Then you have the kids who are just on the cusp, you know? They might've had anxiety or issues, but they were just holding on for dear life, and then when COVID came, it's like, ah, what a relief to be at home, this is so comfortable, I don't want to be at school anymore." 

She says dealing with advanced school avoidance means realizing it is likely not a phase, so be supportive of your child and don't yell. Early intervention is best; don't wait. Contact and inform the school, and also consult with a mental health provider, and know that your child has rights to an education and help with problems.

Some of New York state's top educators mapped out enhanced policies and procedures, recommendations they hope will reassure students, parents and staff.

"When students act out, it's an expression of unmet needs, and we must be there to meet those needs," said New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta.

NYSUT just released its Safe Schools for All Task Force recommendations to protect students and staff with enhanced security, handling the social and emotional needs of students with more training, maintaining proper staffing levels and building community partnerships for added support and funding.

All of this to get back into classrooms with confidence.

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