Teen Safety Report Finds Fighting On The Decline In NYC Schools

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Fighting decreased by 20% in New York City schools between 2003 and 2005, according to a new report from the Health Department, but dating violence is on the rise. The new report, Teen Safety in New York City, charts trends in youth violence and examines the impact of violence on young people's lives and well-being. The report shows an association between violence and other health risks -- both for victims and for aggressors.

"Violent experiences can affect the well-being of teens," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. "As parents, teachers, and health care providers, we have a responsibility to work together to keep our children safe and secure. By taking action early, we protect their health and prevent violence from interfering with teens' development at home or in the classroom."

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Drawing from a survey of adolescents in public schools, the report shows that the percentage of teens involved in school fights dropped from 18% in 2003 to 14% in 2005. The decline reverses an upward trend that began in 1997. The percent of youth who reported carrying a weapon to school in the past month decreased from 9% in 1997 to meet the national average of 7% in 2005. The slight increase that occurred during the study period (from 6% to 7%) was not statistically significant. The proportion of teens who reported missing school because they felt unsafe has remained unchanged at approximately 9% since 1997, compared to the national prevalence of 6% in 2005.

"Students learn best when they are in a safe environment," said New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein. "To this end, we work collaboratively with the New York City Police Department to ensure student safety in each of our schools. The safety of New York City children is our top priority."

The new report identifies a number of shared health risks among youth who carry weapons to school and those who report being threatened or injured by them. Both groups report high rates of illegal drug use -- 17% and 19% respectively, compared to 3% among youth with neither violence experience -- and both are more likely to attempt suicide. Some 25% of those who carried weapons, and 21% of those threatened or injured, said they had attempted suicide during the past year. The prevalence of suicide attempts among youth without violent experiences is approximately 9%.

Although overall school violence is declining, physical dating violence and forced sex have increased among NYC youth. The proportion of students reporting physical dating violence has increased from 6.5% in 1999 to 10% in 2005, which matches the national average for that year. NYC has also seen an increase in forced sex reports. In 2005, 7.5% of New York City youth reported that they had been raped at some point. That figure matches the national average, but it represents an increase for New York City, where the rate was 5.6% in 2001.

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