Students Fear Violence in Schools Survey Reveals High Level of Stress, Anxiety, and Parent Disconnection

9/10/2001

Boston -- A recent survey conducted by Suffolk University professor David Paleologos, in conjunction with the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) shows that the threat of school violence is clearly on the minds of high school students throughout the commonwealth.

"I had difficulty sleeping the first night after hearing some of the responses from these young people," said Paleologos, who teaches a political survey research course at Suffolk. "The bottom line is that these students are frightened and fearful of the violence that’s erupting in schools around the country. They’re extremely concerned about their safety and that of their fellow classmates and friends. The stress level these young people are experiencing is off the charts."

According to the survey results, students in the 10th grade revealed the highest levels of stress, anxiety and fear compared to students in other grades. Said Paleologos, "The 10th grade is the ‘critical’ year and the greatest area of concern."

The survey, conducted from July 9th to July 14th, involved 400 telephone interviews with public school students throughout Massachusetts who were entering grades 8 through 12 this fall. The survey included 21 pre-coded, closed-end questions, plus two multi-choice formatted questions. The summary of the NEMLEC/Suffolk University survey revealed some interesting and startling information, such as:

· 47.2% of students said their school has been evacuated for some safety reason or bomb threat in the past year.

· 66% of students said they believe a Columbine High tragedy could happen at their school. 73% of 10th grade students agreed with that opinion.

· 78% of students said there are definitely students in their school who are afraid to be there.

· 58% of students said the person most likely to commit an act of violence in their school would be someone who’s constantly picked on.

· 78% of students said they believe that teachers take threats seriously in their school.

· 50.7% of students said they have friends who feel extreme levels of pressure in their home life. 54.5% of 10th graders agreed with that opinion.

Another key discovery of the survey was the disconnection existing today between students and their parents. For example, when asked what they would do were another student to tell them they were going to bring a knife, gun or other dangerous weapon to school, only 11.8% of students surveyed answered "tell your parents." Given that this option was selected last out of five options seems to support the long held belief that "the parents are the last to know."

The top four choices, respectively, were: "trying to talk him/her out of it," "tell a teacher," "tell the principal," and "tell the police."

NEMLEC, located in northeastern Massachusetts, is a consortium of 30 police chiefs representing law enforcement agencies from communities in Middlesex and Essex Counties. Medford Police Chief Leo A. Sacco, Jr., Chair of the Training and Education Committee of NEMLEC, says that there are various pilot programs in place to address the powerful findings of this survey.

Stated Chief Sacco, "This survey is powerful testimony to the work parents, teachers, administrators and law enforcement personnel have before them if they are to help students deal with the realities of 2001."

Chief Richard M. Stanley of North Andover, NEMLEC Control Chief of the regional response team added, "NEMLEC is committed to doing its part in reducing student stress by letting students know that in case of trouble, their school is prepared to respond quickly and will do so."

Paleologos said that he is excited about the participation of Suffolk University in this important issue. "Suffolk is genuinely interested in understanding the mindset of students," said Paleologos. "As such, the University believes the more we know about the real attitudes and opinions of students on this important issue, the likelier we can help educators and law enforcement personnel address the real fears that today’s public high school students face."

For more information, please contact Mariellen Norris at 617-573-8450 or Tony Ferullo at 617-573-8448.

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