School violence on the rise: Leaders blame pandemic, social media

School violence is on the rise this year, according to officials. 

Some school leaders say they believe the increase, in part, was caused by the effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on the mental health of young people.

In recent weeks, FOX 35 reported on violence at several middle and high schools in Central Florida. 

Markham Woods Middle School in Heathrow has seen school fights on the rise. 

At Carver Middle School in Orlando, there was a shooting after school right off campus this month. 

Over at Oviedo High School, 12 students were arrested for fighting on campus. 

At Seminole High School, parents were notified that a student had a gun on campus Friday, and two students were arrested last week for fights. 

And, at Hagerty High School in Oviedo, the district discovered a social media threat online involving an air-soft gun photo Friday morning.

The Seminole High School principal said there has been an uptick in school fights involving multiple people.

"If you create an unfair advantage, and you're talking 2-1, 3-1, that’s an attack," said Seminole High School Principal Dr. Jordan Rodriquez. "You’re going to get arrested and recommended for alternative placement."

Dr. Rodriquez said he believes last year's virtual learning cut off students from socializing with each other, some fell behind with grades, and with the added pressures of social media, it creates the perfect storm for school violence.

"You’re seeing a lot of stress," Dr. Rodriguez said. "You’re seeing some anxiety. Some of the kids fell behind, academically, and now they’re trying to graduate on time."

The executive director of the National Organization for School Resource Officers says they anticipated a violent school year.

"When we have severe mental health issues involved, violence can become a part of that and, certainly, we want to be in the team effort in schools to deescalate things, try to end things before they become violent. The goal is to get the student the help they need," said Mo Canady, executive director at the National Association of School Resource Officers.

Dr. Rodriguez says he's seen an increase in students looking for counseling at school, so much so, they've reached out to the district for extra support to handle the demand.