NEW ORLEANS, La. (WDSU) — New statistics reveal Louisiana public high school students lead the nation when it comes to alcohol use. Data shows more than one-third of ninth- through 12th-grade students said they drank alcohol within the previous 30 days. The national average was just under 30%.
The report, “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2019,” was released Wednesday from the National Center for Education Statistics with input from the federal justice and education departments. Information from school administrators was collected during the 2017-2018 school year.
The state also reported the highest rate of cyberbullying, with 21.3% of its high school students reporting they had been targeted via social media, email, chat rooms or another electronic format.
Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, has compiled data comparable to the information in the new report, including directly from students.
The most popular social media applications are typically where cyberbullying takes place, Patchin said. The challenge for schools is to adapt their policy to discourage students from using technology to bully others, he said, adding that schools often lack the resources to integrate instruction on the topic into their curricula.
Parents also have a role in discouraging cyberbullying, Patchin said, and should not be too quick to place restrictions on their child’s access to technology.
“I think it’s important for parents to talk to kids about cyberbullying, open up that line of communication, so that if their child does experience it they feel comfortable coming to them and explaining the situation,” Patchin said. “Kids are reluctant to talk to schools, but they’re also reluctant to talk to with parents. They frankly think the parents’ response is to take the technology away.”
More information and resources for students, parents and educators is available at cyberbullying.org.
There is often a high correlation between cyberbullying and bullying at school, Patchin said.
Data from the Indicators report shows on-campus threats are a significant issue in Louisiana, which had the largest share of students who said they were threatened with or injured by a weapon at school. Such instances were reported among 12.8% of students, compared with the 6% national average.
Arkansas, at 11.7%, was the only other state with a double-digit rate of weapon threats and injuries on campus.
Louisiana exceeded the national average in nearly every category covered. It was second in the nation for students saying they had been involved in fights at least once within the past 12 months, both on and off campus. More than 30% reported they had fought at any location and 12.3% said they fought at school. The national averages were 12.3% for fighting anywhere and 8.5% on campus.
Only in marijuana use did Louisiana lag that national average, with 18.8% of high school students saying they had used it within 30 days compared with the 19.8% U.S. rate.
One positive trend for Louisiana public high schools involves the rate of students who said they brought a weapon to campus. The 5.7% rate in 2017 is the lowest reported for the state since the federal government began compiling the statistics in 2009. The national rate was 3.8% three school years ago.
Key findings the report authors noted included 42 school-associated violent deaths from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017. They included 28 homicides, 13 suicides and one death involving law enforcement intervention.
There were also 958 instances of hate crimes at U.S. public high schools in 2017-18, with the most common being destruction, damage and vandalism of property.
By: Greg LaRose