Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
High schools are often filled with rumors about bullied kids or at-risk youth bringing weapons into school. A new report being presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada has confirmed that teens who have been picked on numerous times are as much as 31 times more likely to take a weapon to school than those who have not been victimized.
“Victims of bullying who have been threatened, engaged in a fight, injured, or had property stolen or damaged are much more likely to carry a gun or knife to school,” said senior investigator Dr Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.
In the study, researchers reviewed information from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System – a nationwide representative survey of greater than 15,000 US high school students carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Teens were asked if they had been harassed on school grounds in the past 12 months and the number of days in the past month they took a weapon on school property.
The scientists tracked a number of risk factors that might relate to bringing a weapon to school: skipping school as a result of feeling unsafe either in school or on the way to school; had something stolen or broken; had been confronted or hurt with a weapon; and had experienced a physical altercation. They also examined what happened when students had several risk factors.
Responses indicated that 20 percent of high school students said they were victims of bullying. Students who were bullied were more prone to be in lower grades, females and white. Additionally, bullied kids were more likely to bring a weapon to school than teens who were not picked on – 8.6 percent vs. 4.6 percent.
“Large numbers of high school students report having been victimized by bullies and admit to carrying a weapon to school. Greater efforts need to be expended on reducing bullying in all of its many forms,” said study author Dr. Lana Schapiro, also from Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.
The scientists also discovered a significant boost in the probability that victims of bullying attended school with a weapon if they possessed several risk factors. As many as 28 percent of students with one risk factor said they took a weapon to school, while as much as 62 percent of those with three risk factors said they took a weapon on school grounds.
“Tragedies like the Columbine High School massacre have alerted educators and the public to the grave potential for premeditated violence not just by bullies, but by their victims as well,” Adesman said. “Our analysis of data collected by the CDC clearly identifies which victims of bullying are most likely to carry a gun or other weapon to school.”
“With estimates of more than 200,000 victims of bullying carrying a weapon to high school, more effective prevention efforts and intervention strategies need to be identified,” Schapiro added. “The greatest focus should not just be on bullies, but on the victims of bullies most likely to carry a weapon and potentially use deadly force if threatened.”