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Updated 10:00 AM September 21, 2009
 

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  Research
Schools failing when it comes to bullying

Key to a child's successful education is an environment in which he or she can learn safely.

According to a report released 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," says Dr. Matthew Davis, director of the poll and associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the 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," says Davis, who also is an associate professor of public policy at the 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 2009 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 schoolwide emergency, and keeping parents informed in the event of a schoolwide 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."

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