High School Violence Fear Keeps Many U.S. Kids Home

Paul Simao, Reuters, Jul. 29

ATLANTA (Reuters)—More U.S. high school students are skipping class because they feel unsafe even though the general level of violence in schools has fallen since the early 1990s, federal health officials reported on Thursday.

Safety concerns prompted 5.4 percent of students to stay at home on at least one day in the previous month in 2003, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of thousands of kids in grades 9 through 12.

Only 4.4 percent reported doing so in 1993.

The CDC said the rise in safety-related truancy might be linked to students’ “heightened sense of vulnerability after an increase in high-profile, school-associated, multiple-victim homicides during the 1990s.”

School violence became a hot issue in the United States in the wake of a rash of fatal school shootings, including a 1999 massacre that left 14 students and one teacher dead at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

CDC researchers also noted that the number of students who reported being threatened or injured with a gun, knife or club on school property had risen between 1993 and 2003.

But high schools have made progress reducing violence in several areas, said the CDC, which views efforts to lower the levels of physical fighting among adolescents and weapon possession on school property as national health priorities.

Homicides and suicide are responsible for about one-fourth of the deaths among Americans aged 10 to 24.

The number of students who said they had been in a physical fight, either on school property or elsewhere, dropped 21 percent between 1993 and 2003, the CDC revealed. Only 6.1 percent said they carried a weapon on school property in 2003, a 47 percent drop from 1993.

The study was conducted in the 50 states and District of Columbia. Samples sizes ranged from 10,904 to 16,296 students enrolled in public and private schools between 1991 and 2003.

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