Injury is the leading cause of death among children ages five to seventeen, and most children spend from 22-27% of their waking hours at school. This certainly makes parents question just how safe those school hours are–especially in the wake of recent school tragedies. Children are sent off to school, day after day, year after year, to an environment that–if you believe news reports–has become increasingly dangerous. SO just how dangerous are our schools?
The American Journal of Public Health reports there are approximately 3.7 million school injury victims per year, with a quarter of these injuries being considered serious. Most people might think the majority of these accidents occur among younger students who spend a significant amount of time on potentially dangerous playground equipment. In fact, 41% of all school injury victims are from fifteen to nineteen years old, 31% are from eleven to fourteen years old and only 28% are from five to ten years old. Keep in mind that these figures do not include sports injuries received in after-school sports activities. The injuries received at school are largely due to falls, leading to cuts, sprains and broken bones, and, as you might expect, boys are more often injured at school than girls.
Despite the few school bus accidents, which make the national news, school buses are the safest method for transporting students to and from school, and the NHTSA believes that traveling by school bus is seven times safer than traveling by car or truck. Annually, only six school-age children die as passengers on a school bus, and while we would all want that number to be zero, it tells you that your child’s school bus is actually pretty safe.
School shootings have certainly grown more prevalent over the past two decades. Yet school shootings date as far back as 1860, when in Todd County, Kentucky, one student brought a gun to school and shot another. Since the Columbine shootings in 1999, there have been thirty-one school shootings in the United States. Homicide is the second leading cause of death among children between the ages of five and eighteen, and approximately 1-2% of those deaths occur on school grounds, primarily relating to school shootings. Over 100,000 students admit to regularly carrying a gun to school, mostly for self-defense against bullying from other students.
If you live in a larger city, such as Miami, your children may have to deal with gang violence at school. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention notes that 23% of students between ages twelve and eighteen report a street gang presence at their school; 21% of the gang presence is in suburban schools and 15% in rural schools. Gangs are notorious for bullying other students, and over 150,000 students miss school each year in an effort to avoid being bullied.
School bullying statistics in the United States show that one in four children are bullied while at school on a regular basis. Students in grades six through ten are the most likely to be involved in activities related to bullying. Physical bullying is much more prevalent at school than anywhere else, although cyber bullying is becoming increasingly common, both on school property and while children are at home. Forms of bullying can include rumor-spreading, derogatory terms based on a child’s religion, sexual orientation, gender or race and obscenities directed toward students. Despite measures increasingly taken by school officials to crack down on bullying on school property, the problem remains, and in about 85% of all bullying cases, no intervention occurs from teachers or administration.
In general, schools are safer from the viewpoint of fatalities as compared to non-school properties, but are no safer than non-school properties from the viewpoint of injuries. Bullying in particular continues to be a growing problem, making many students reluctant to attend school.