Schools as a Safety-net: The Impact of School Closures and Reopenings on Rates of Reporting of Violence Against Children
Ongoing school closures and gradual reopenings have been occurring since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. One substantial cost of school closure is breakdown in channels of reporting of violence against children, in which schools play a considerable role. There is, however, little evidence documenting how widespread such a breakdown in reporting of violence against children has been, and scant evidence exists about potential recovery in reporting as schools re-open. We study all formal criminal reports of violence against children occurring in Chile up to December 2021, covering physical, psychological, and sexual violence. This is combined with administrative records of school re-opening, attendance, and epidemiological and public health measures. We observe sharp declines in violence reporting at the moment of school closure across all classes of violence studied. Estimated reporting declines range from -17% (rape), to -43% (sexual abuse). While reports rise with school re-opening, recovery of reporting rates is slow. Conservative projections suggest that reporting gaps remained into the final quarter of 2021, nearly two years after initial school closures. Our estimates suggest that school closure and incomplete re-opening resulted in around 2,800 `missing' reports of intra-family violence, 2,000 missing reports of sexual assault, and 230 missing reports of rape against children, equivalent to between 10-25 weeks of reporting in baseline periods. The immediate and longer term impacts of school closures account for between 40-70% of `missing' reports in the post-COVID period.