A recent study reveals students who are bullied by their classmates are far more likely to bring a weapon to school, and it highlights the risk factors that can predict such incidents.
The research, published last month in the journal Pediatrics, is based on data from the Center for Disease Control on more than 15,000 students, which shows 20% of high-schoolers have been bullied. A CDC survey showed roughly 4% of all students admit to carrying a weapon to school in the last month, which leads researchers to believe more than 200,000 bullied students carry a gun or knife.
“We wanted to look at those who are bringing weapons into what is supposed to be a safe space,” study co-author Andrew Adesman, a professor of pediatrics at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, told ABC News.
Adesman said prior research has shown bullied kids are more likely to carry weapons, but the new study identifies “a striking cascade of risk that is proportional” to three specific risk factors: students involved in fights, those who skip class because they feel unsafe, and previous threats or injuries from classmates.
Researchers contend bullied students who have all three risk factors have a 46% probability of carrying a weapon to school, compared to only 5% when students do not have all three risk factors.
According to ABC News:
Through this analysis, researchers have identified a group that may be at the highest risk of pursuing physical violence. Almost half of this group are carrying weapons to school—a number that is 35 times higher than that of high school students in general.
Amidst this high-risk group, there is a gender discrepancy as well. Though girls were more likely to report being victims of bullying, bullied boys were almost three times more likely to be the ones carrying weapons to class.
Experts who weighed in on the research are advising a multi-faceted approach to addressing the bullying problem.
“If we really want to help our youth be safer, we need to think of a comprehensive plan of combating bullying through electronic media, informing law enforcement and teachers about establishing universal consequences for bullying, and talking about the dangers of weapons on the streets,” Gene Beresin, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News.
Others have pointed to social status as another element of the equation.
Murray Milner, a senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, explains in his book Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids that “Bullies have always been a problem.
“Part of growing up is learning to deal with them,” Milner wrote. “But that does not mean that young people should be without assistance in [dealing with them].”
Milner contends that with bullying, status is often in play, and because of the sheer numbers of students, teachers are often not attentive to the status dynamics among students that can fuel bullying, and thus other consequences.
There are, however, schools making strides in combating the problem.
Some schools, such as Valor Collegiate Academies, use “advisory groups”—which Valor describes as a mentor program—to help students and teachers form bonds over a student’s tenure at the school. In addition to the academic benefits of goal-setting, these intentional mentoring relationships play a valuable role in curbing bullying.
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