Non-Accidental School Injuries Result In 90,000 ER Visits

A new study shows that many kids are still being seriously hurt while on school grounds despite all the lip service given to battling bullying. According to the study published in Pediatrics, each year, more than 90,000 school children suffer “intentional” injuries severe enough to land them in the emergency room.

An assistant professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University, Dr. Siraj Amanullah, said that though there was a decrease in the number of intentional injuries at school over the last 10 years, it was minor.

“We were surprised,” Amanullah said. “With so much emphasis on school safety and bullying now, we expected a bigger decline. Ninety-thousand per year is quite huge.”

This could just be the tip of the iceberg as Amullah said the study was only looking at kids who turned up in the ER.

“Bullying is so underreported,” said Amanullah, adding that children are still reluctant to tell anyone because often little gets done about it. “We were hoping this study would bring more attention to the problem.”

Data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, All Injury Program collected from January of 2001 through December of 2008, was the focus of Amanullah and his colleagues. A plethora of detail, including the type of injury, whether it occurred at school and whether it was the result of an accident or was intentional, was included in the report. Fractures accounted for 12%, brain injuries for 10% and sprains and strain another 7% while cuts and bruises were the most common injuries at 40%. With most perpetrators identified as friends or acquaintances, assault was the vast majority of injuries at an astonishing 96%.

The adults that kids model themselves after could part of the problem. Bullying behavior by coaches is quite high — and that the schools often make excuses for the behavior if it’s a winning coach, as reported by an article published in the same issue of Pediatrics.

A survey cited in the article found that 45 percent of kids “reported verbal misconduct by coaches, including name-calling and insulting them during play”.

As Linda Carroll of NBC News reports, a total of 7,397,301 injuries occurred at school, of which 736,014 were intentional, during the study period. A professor at the University of Virginia and director of Youth-Nex, the U.Va. Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, Patrick Tolan, said that the new study shows “that almost 10% of injuries are intentional, which means there is a lot of violence going on in the schools that don’t include football, or hockey, or volleyball or tripping and falling and getting hurt”.

Additionally, Tolan believes that increased monitoring of the kids could be part of the solution.

“Every school should assume they have an issue,” he said. “They should be looking at where and how both intentional and unintentional injuries are occurring.”

He concluded by saying that parents should remember that schools are still the safest place outside of home for most kids, although he thinks schools could be doing more to create a safe environment for kids.