Survey: Schools Still Lacking In Bullying, Violence Prevention

Key to a child's successful education is an environment in which he or she can learn safely. According to a report released today by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, only 26 percent of parents would give their child's high school an "A" for preventing bullying and school violence, and 38 percent of parents would give their child's elementary or junior high an "A."

"Children who are victims of bullying can have serious health effects, including physical injuries and emotional problems such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and actions," said Matthew Davis, M.D., director of the poll and associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School. "Unfortunately, in the United States, we've seen some tragedies in the past few years regarding episodes of school violence that have gotten a lot of media coverage and upset many parents."

In the United States., an estimated 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of attack or intimidation by other students, according to the National Education Association. Since 1992, there have been 250 violent deaths in schools, and bullying has been a factor in many school shootings.

"What this poll shows is that parents are still very concerned about bullying in their schools. About three-quarters of states nationwide have implemented bullying prevention laws that are designed to encourage, and in some cases force schools to present and deliver bullying prevention curriculum to students," said Davis, who is also an associate professor of public policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. "But based on these findings, it doesn't appear that those curricula or programs are working effectively."

The poll asked 1,087 parents across the U.S. in May to assign their child's school an A through F grade in five categories: overall safety, building security, bullying and school violence prevention, keeping students safe during a school-wide emergency, and keeping parents informed in the event of a school-wide emergency.

Parents grades for other school safety concerns:

  • Overall safety: 59 percent of parents would give their child's primary school an "A," while 33 percent of parents would give their child's secondary school an "A."
  • Keeping parents informed in a school-wide emergency: 64 percent of parents would give their child's primary school an "A," while 46 percent of parents would give their child's secondary school an "A."
  • Keeping their child safe during a school-wide emergency: 62 percent of parents would give their child's primary school an "A," while 36 percent of parents would give their child's secondary school an "A."
  • Building security: 49 percent of parents would give their child's primary school an "A," while 33 percent of parents would give their child's secondary school an "A."

Parents who have concerns about bullying in their child's school can get involved in a few ways. Davis suggests parents become active in local safe school and safe community programs where bullying and violence prevention programs already exist.

In the few states where bullying prevention programs do not exist, Davis suggests parents get involved in the legislative process by advocating for bullying programs to be put in place using other states as examples.

"But right at home, there's a way for parents to make a difference too," he said "Parents can listen to their kids who are their eyes and ears in the schools, especially about issues of bullying. It can be really hard for children to bring up the topic of bullying so parents may need to ask directly about it and make home a safe place to talk about this important problem."

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