Teens afraid to go to school

A new report released today by the CDC indicates that US teenagers fear violence in the schools more today than a decade ago, despite some evidence that the rate of violence is actually declining.

In my work with Canadian teens, I see a similar trend. However, I wonder about the conclusion that violence is actually declining – perhaps that conclusion depends on how one defines “violence”. Indeed, in my practice, it is rare to find a teen who has not been intimidated, threatened with violence, physically intimidated in some way (e.g., being surrounded by a group of teens and harassed), or physically assaulted, with the degree of assault ranging from slapping to punching and kicking.

The number of U.S. teenagers skipping school for fear of getting hurt climbed over the past decade, even though violence in schools actually declined, the government said Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed the increase in part to a rise in schoolyard threats and lingering fear from the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 and other school shootings in the 1990s.

More than one out of every 20 high school students – 5.4 percent – skipped at least one day of school because of safety concerns in 2003, according to the CDC survey. That is up from 4.4 percent in 1993.

At the same time, CDC statistics indicate an overall drop in school violence over the past decade.

The percentage of students who said they had been in a fight in the preceding year dropped from 42.5 percent in 1991 to 33 percent in 2003. Only a little more than 6 percent of students said they had carried a weapon onto school grounds in 2003, down from 11.8 percent in 1993.

The CDC said students may be reluctant to go to school because of a “heightened sense of vulnerability” tied to the school shootings of the 1990s. Also, one in 11 students surveyed in 2003 said they were threatened with or injured by a weapon on school property in the preceding year. That was up from about one in 14 students threatened or injured in 1993.

teens, teenagers, school violence, high school, school system

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