High School Climate Report: More grim than glee

Bullying, violence, discrimination and the ethical climate of high school.

Charles Blow wrote about what he termed the Private School Civility Gap in the OpEd pages of the NYTimes last Friday. He was drawing on the study issued last month by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics. It surveyed over 43,000 students on a whole range of issues concerning school climate and discovered some very inconvenient truths and disturbing data about the quality of life  in high schools and the behaviors of students.

Blow’s point was that some students in some private institutions can sometimes have a sense of entitlement that sometimes leads some of them to act with more violence, less civility and greater intolerance.  He could have focused on areas that showed those schools in a far more favorable light on a whole range of important behavioral issues.  But he didn’t. Take a look at the study for yourself and see what conclusions you draw from it.

The Josephson Institute conducts this comprehensive survey of high school students across the country every two years.  Called the Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, it measures  self-reported values, attitudes, and behavior.

The first installment of the 2010 report focuses on bullying and other at-risk behavior.

The study breaks down the data in very detailed demographic groups – by school type, region, sex and levels of involvement in school life (athletics for example.)

According to the  study,  half of all high school students (50 percent) admit they bullied someone in the past year, and nearly half (47 percent) say they were bullied, teased, or taunted in a way that seriously upset them in the past year.

The Institute’s study also found that one-third (33 percent) of all high school students say that violence is a big problem at their school, and one in four (24 percent) say they do not feel very safe at school. More than half (52 percent) admit that within the past year they hit a person because they were angry. Ten percent of students say they took a weapon to school at least once in the past 12 months, and 16 percent admit that they have been intoxicated at school.

“The combination of bullying, a penchant toward violence when one is angry, the availability of weapons, and the possibility of intoxication at school increases significantly the likelihood of retaliatory violence,” Josephson said.

So what has this to do with Poughkeepsie Day School? Our students are immune to all this and are perfect models of tolerance, civility and respect right?

Well, no. But it does so happen that PDS students were among those 43,321 high school students surveyed. And we do have our results.

On that topic, more anon.

1 Comment

  1. Joe Pullman:

    I read your blog post about the High Climate Report and I loved the way you wrote it. I thought it was interesting to read about kids in high school who are bullied and are bullying others and who have lots of issues. As I read more into your post I learned that this is very serious, with the high percentage of fighting and bullying going on in high schools in a school year. I learned a lot in this blog post and I can’t wait to read and learn more.
    Joe P. 🙂

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