Lack of Mental Health Resources Imperils School Safety: Report

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Photo courtesy Institute of Education Sciences

Inadequate funding and the lack of access to licensed mental health professionals have crippled the ability of American public schools to prevent youth violence, reports the National Center for Education Statistics.

Only 38 percent of public schools during the 2017-2018 school year reported providing treatment to students with mental health disorders, said the center in a joint study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice.

In that same period, nearly 71 percent of public schools recorded one or more violent incidents and 80 percent of public schools recorded one or more incidents of violence, theft, or other crimes had occurred, amounting to 1.4 million incidents, the study said.

According to the study, in addition to experiencing loneliness and depression, victimized students are more prone to skipping class, experiencing poor academic performance, dropping out of school, and violent behavior.

The poor economic conditions of the neighborhoods in which schools resided was also identified as a significant contributing factor to nefarious student activity. For instance, crime, poverty, the selling of drugs, public drinking, gang activity, and racial tensions in neighborhoods negatively affected student performance in school.

“Fifth-graders attending schools [with neighborhood problems] consistently had lower scores in reading, mathematics, and science than did those whose school administrators reported that their school did not experience [neighborhood problems],” the study said.

Researchers also noted the growing problem of students carrying weapons on school property.

In 2017, 16 percent of high school students reported that they had carried a weapon in the past 30 days. In that school year, “3,500 students were reported to have brought firearms to or possessed firearms at schools.”

The report also said that the leading cause for hate crimes at postsecondary institutions were racially motivated (413 incidents in 2017). Religious bias constituted of 18 percent of reported hate crimes (172 incidents) and sexual orientation bias made up of 16 percent (154 incidents). The dominating methods of hate crimes on campuses were vandalism and intimidation.

The July report, entitled Indicators of School Crime and Safety and prepared by the Institute of Education Sciences, was written by Ke Wang, Yongqiu Chen and Jizhi Zhang of the American Institutes for Research; and Barbara A. Oudekerk, of the Bureau of Justice Statistics

The full report can be downloaded here.

This summary was prepared by TCR news intern Sarah Rose George

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