You may be able to relate to this story: When I was in elementary school I was not cool. In fact there were only two kids who were considered even more uncool than I was: Jim and Ana.
Jim was short and clumsy and Ana was overweight. One day when our classes merged for a game of volleyball no one wanted Ana on their team. Everyone made jokes about her. Even as a child I knew they shouldn’t have said it.
This story is far too common. A child is teased or picked on and adults who may be able to intervene either don’t recognize the warning signs or they consider the bullying a ‘normal part of growing up.’ And teasing can lead to other forms of bullying.
Parents, teachers, and administrators expect schools to be a safe place for children to learn. And it’s important to remember that most of our schools are safe from the most serious forms of violence: research shows that less than 1 percent of all homicides among school-age children happen at – or on the way to or from – school. This means the vast majority of students will never experience lethal violence at school. That said, any amount of violence is unacceptable.
According to the U.S. Department of Education:
- Approximately 38% of public schools reported at least one incident of violence to police during 2005-2006.
- In 2007, 23% of students reported gangs at their schools.
- From 2003-2004, 10% of teachers in city schools reported that they were threatened with injury by students, compared with 6% of teachers in suburban schools, and 5% in rural schools.
- In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a nationwide survey of students in grades 9-12, who reported the following risk behaviors:
- 5.9% of students carried a weapon (e.g., a gun, knife, or club) on school property during the 30 days before the survey.
- 7.8% of students were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property during the 12 months before the survey.
- 12.4% of students were in a physical fight on school property during the 12 months before the survey.
- 22.3% of students were offered, sold, or given an illegal drug by someone on school property during the 12 months before the survey.
The Realities of Bullying
Research shows that prevention efforts – by teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and even students – can reduce violence and improve the overall school environment. According to CDC’s website, the public discussion of violence in schools rarely includes public health approaches. Standard approaches to school violence prevention are often limited to metal detectors and other security measures, for which the science is, at best, inconclusive. Public health approaches focus on preventing violence before it starts and are proven to be effective in reducing youth violence.
But that doesn’t mean students don’t encounter other kinds of youth violence during their school day. It may take the form of bullying, like what Jim and Ana experienced. This can include physical, verbal or psychological attacks or intimidation. It may happen once – or it may happen between the same children repeatedly. And this bullying may take place in person – or electronically, through email or texting.
In addition, they may experience violence in their dating relationships or violence at home, the signs of which may manifest at school. We would appreciate your help in raising awareness among adults and parents, so they recognize the types of violence children and teens may experience and pledge to stop it.
Recognizing and understanding the risk factors and warning signs associated with bullying and other forms of youth violence – as well as the importance of prevention – can help keep our children and teens safe. CDC has a variety of resources for parents and teachers, to help you support your children and students.
CDC also has a violence prevention Facebook page, VetoViolence. I’m a fan of the page, so I can learn more about what can be done to promote safe and healthy relationships for our children and teens. I hope you will take a look at the page and think about liking it too. And while you’re there, please pledge to prevent violence. Because it takes all of us working together, to truly make a difference – and to prevent what happened to Jim and Ana from happening to anyone else.
Ana RodrgíuezSenior Program Manager, Multicultural CommunicationsMs. Rodríguez in a bilingual communications expert with over 15 years of experience. She oversees Multicultural Communications in at not for profit’s public relations group, and is responsible for media outreach. As a native of Puerto Rico and fluent in Spanish, Ana has developed and translated Spanish materials to extend in multiple campaigns. Has successfully garnered the attention of the Hispanic and African American media markets with information on health and preparedness. Ana holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Boston University, a master’s degree in science management from the University of Maryland, and a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Puerto.