Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:01 AM ET
Despite all the lip service given to battling bullying, many kids are still being seriously hurt while on school grounds, a new study shows. Each year more than 90,000 school children suffer “intentional” injuries severe enough to land them in the emergency room, according to the study published in Pediatrics.
Though there was a decrease in the number of intentional injuries at school over the last 10 years, it was minor, said study co-author Dr. Siraj Amanullah, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.
“We were surprised,” Amanullah said. “With so much emphasis on school safety and bullying now, we expected a bigger decline. Ninety-thousand per year is quite huge."
And keep in mind, Amanullah said, the study was only looking at kids who turned up in the ER. This could just be the tip of the iceberg.
“Bullying is so underreported,” said Amanullah, adding that children are still reluctant to tell anyone because often little gets done about it. “We were hoping this study would bring more attention to the problem.”
Amanullah and his colleagues pored through data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System — All Injury Program collected from January of 2001 through December of 2008. The ER reports include a plethora of detail, including the type of injury, whether it occurred at school and whether it was the result of an accident or was intentional.
While cuts and bruises were the most common injuries at 40 percent, fractures accounted for 12 percent, brain injuries for 10 percent and sprains and strains another 7 percent. The vast majority of injuries — 96 percent — were the result of an assault, with most perpetrators identified as friends or acquaintances. A full 10 percent of the assaults involved multiple perpetrators.
Part of the problem may be the adults that kids model themselves after. An article published in the same issue of Pediatrics reported that bullying behavior by coaches is quite high — and that the schools often make excuses for the behavior if it’s a winning coach.
A survey cited in the article found that 45 percent of kids “reported verbal misconduct by coaches, including name-calling and insulting them during play.”
During the study period, a total of 7,397,301 injuries occurred at school, of which 736,014 were intentional. The new study shows “that almost 10 percent of injuries are intentional, which means there’s a lot of violence going on in the schools that doesn’t include football, or hockey, or volleyball or tripping and falling and getting hurt,” said Patrick Tolan, a professor at the University of Virginia and director of Youth-Nex, the U.Va. Center to Promote Effective Youth Development.
Part of the solution may be increased monitoring of the kids, Tolan said. “Every school should assume they have an issue,” he added. “They should be looking at where and how both intentional and unintentional injuries are occurring.”
And while Tolan thinks schools could be doing more to create a safe environment for kids, parents should remember that schools are still the safest place outside of home for most kids, he said.