Once again, health professionals and researchers asked Oakland’s fifth-graders whether they felt safe at school, if they drank alcohol or used drugs, and whether they had caring relationships and other important things going for them at school and at home.
The findings of the 2008-09 California Healthy Kids Survey included the responses of 77 percent of the school district’s fifth-grade class. While the results haven’t changed much since 2006-07 — or maybe because they haven’t — they are definitely worth noting.
Here’s what never ceases to alarm me, even though I’ve seen these stats before: About 5 percent of the children surveyed — mind you, they are 10 and 11, for the most part — said they had brought a gun or a knife to their elementary school in the past year. And that about 33 percent of the students, one in three kids, said they had seen a gun or knife at school in the past year.
Not surprisingly, just 46 percent said they felt safe at their school all of the time.
But it’s not just Oakland. I checked the reports on a few other districts, and found similarly disconcerting responses. In Hayward, 40 percent of fifth-graders surveyed said they had seen a gun or knife at school; in Castro Valley, it was 23 percent. Even in Pleasanton, hardly a town with a dangerous rep, 13 percent of fifth-graders said they had seen weapons at the school in the last year, and 2 percent said they had brought a weapon themselves.
What’s going on here?
On the flip side, researchers estimate that 54 percent of the Oakland kids, based on their answers, have strong relationships, high expectations and a connection to their school, elements that are believed to be correlated with a child’s resilience and decision-making abilities.
Far more — 83 percent — seemed to have those same high resilience factors, or “external assets,” working in their favor at home. Just 41 percent have those connections with their peers.
What strikes you about this report? Does it ring true with your experience working with (or parenting) children of that age group? What can schools do to improve safety and make kids feel safer?