Common School Communication Crises Identified

Dive Brief:

  • The primary causes of school crises in communication for K-12 schools include school violence, parental advocacy, teacher misconduct, labor disputes, and Title IX concerns, based on an examination of interviews with school and district administrators, as well as social media and traditional media reports spanning from 2022 to 2023.

  • In 2023, there was an average of 130 news stories per day about school violence in mainstream media outlets, which were two to three times more likely to cover violent incidents in schools compared to similar crimes elsewhere. Additionally, 2023 witnessed a 2,280% surge in traditional media coverage of educators using OnlyFans, an online platform predominantly used by individuals in the adult entertainment industry.

  • According to the Comsint Communications crisis communications trends report, over recent years, “the breadth and significance of challenges diverting leaders from student service are increasing.” These issues “considerably detract from school operations and can lead to notable spikes in inbound communication,” stated the strategic communications and marketing firm.

Dive Insight:

While 58% of This represented a decrease from 69% in 2020, though crisis communication remained a top five responsibility for school communication professionals in 2022, as reported in the National School Public Relations Association’s survey. Meanwhile, community engagement and public relations rose to the fourth position in priorities in 2022, climbing from seventh during the peak of the pandemic in 2020 and sixth two years earlier.

Mellissa Braham, NSPRA’s associate director, noted that school crises demand a substantial portion of time from communication experts, highlighting that crises relating to school violence, parent activism, educator misconduct, and labor or Title IX issues are particularly concerning.

Looking at the findings from the previous year’s NSPRA report, districts are enhancing their investments in communication, with more professionals now considered integral members of the district’s leadership team compared to previous years. The average size of communication departments within districts has also grown, now consisting of up to four individuals instead of the one-person offices seen in the past.

According to a separate report from the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Civic Engagement Research Group at the University of California, Riverside, political tensions have been escalating, impeding respectful dialogue in schools and complicating efforts to address misinformation. Furthermore, superintendent turnover surged by 46% between the periods of 2018-2020 and 2020-2022 in major school districts across the country due to pandemic stress, political divisions, and safety concerns.

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