School Violence

By Lawrence Goodman / March/April 2014
March 13th, 2014

During the 2000s, alarmed school officials across the country adopted a number of steps to reduce violence. These included zero-tolerance policies, metal detectors at school entrances, and conflict resolution courses that stressed finding peaceful alternatives to fighting.

Are they working?

A new study by researchers at the Alpert Medical School suggests their success has been slow and steady. The team, which included colleagues from University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, looked at all the reported injuries in schools that sent a student to the emergency room between 2001 and 2008. During this period, the number of emergency visits due to injuries in schools went from 200,000 to 150,000. All these visits were as a result of what the researchers call “intentional” injuries—those that are deliberately, rather than accidentally, inflicted.

Assistant professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics Siraj Amanullah ’04 MPH believes this slowly decreasing trend is not good enough. “We are doing so much about school violence, but still we are seeing a significant number of injuries,” he says. “The existing measures being taken may need to be revamped.”

The study also looked at teen violence outside schools. During 2007 and 2008, there were about 500,000 visits to emergency rooms by adolescents due to intentional injuries. Interestingly, it was girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen who were at the highest risk of becoming victims of violence outside schools, while boys were at higher risk in school.

Amanullah speculates that the difference may be due to a greater number of girls doing harm to themselves, such as by cutting or drug overdose, which are also counted as intentional injuries. But it could be that girls are better protected and supervised at school than outside school.

Amanullah’s study also found that kids in middle school face rates of violence almost as high as those in high school. “We assume middle-schoolers are not that violent,” Amanullah says. “But they were about as much at risk for injuries as older teenagers.”

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March/April 2014