When children in school are subjected to bullying by their peers, they often make a logical but potentially dangerous choice: They arm themselves.
Researchers used a poll to calculate how frequently such behavior occurs. Twenty percent of high school students reported being bullied. They were twice as likely as the non-bullied to admit to having brought weapons to schools. The base percentage is small, 8.6 percent compared to 4.6 percent. But the likelihood the student carries a weapon increases the more different kinds of bullying the student has to deal with, from violence and intimidation to property theft. Researchers estimate based on the poll that 200,000 teens being bullied are bringing weapons to school.
The response from the researchers has a strong whiff of “Somebody do something!”-ism. From Science Daily:
"With estimates of more than 200,000 victims of bullying carrying a weapon to high school, more effective prevention efforts and intervention strategies need to be identified," [principal investigator Lana] Schapiro added. "The greatest focus should not just be on bullies, but on the victims of bullies most likely to carry a weapon and potentially use deadly force if threatened."
But if all these students are carrying weapons and yet there aren’t hundreds of thousands of incidences of school violence by bullying victims every day, what is the actual extent of the problem versus the fearmongering? Schools already have their terrible zero tolerance rules that have resulted in all sorts of twisted outcomes for stupid reasons. It’s easy to imagine misguided, indifferent school administrators responding to the study by exposing the bullied students to increased scrutiny, all in the guise of protecting student safety. That could have the additional impact of causing students to be even less likely to report harassment.
The scientists are using the study to push for more school responses to bullying. Nick Gillespie asked whether Americans’ fears of school bullying are a bit overblown back in 2012. Interestingly, based on the numbers Gillespie quoted back then, it appears there might have actually been a drop in the number of students reporting problems with bullies. Numbers Gillespie reported from 2009 had 28 percent of students reporting being bullied. This study found 20 percent. But this is a different kind of study with probably different definitions.
(Hat tip to Mark Sletten.)