Many Middle School Boys Carry Weapons To School

January 14, 1999

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Three percent of North Carolina middle school students had carried a gun onto school property and 14.1 percent had carried a knife or club to school, a research team from Brenner Children's Hospital and the Brenner Center for Child and Adolescent Health report in the January issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The study was based on a survey of a representative sample of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students, according to Robert H. DuRant, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of pediatrics and professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. These students generally are between 11 and 15 years old.

If divided by sex, the results are even more striking: 5 percent of the boys carried guns (versus less than 1 percent of the girls) and 20.2 percent of the boys carried clubs or knives, versus 7.7 percent of the girls.

DuRant noted that the percentage of N.C. middle school students carrying weapons to school was higher than among high school students he surveyed in Massachusetts.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was given to 2,227 randomly selected sixth- to eighth-grade students attending 53 of the 463 middle schools in North Carolina. DuRant used a similar Youth Risk Behavior Survey in studies reported earlier from Massachusetts and Vermont.

"Carrying a gun was associated with frequency of smoking, drinking alcohol and marijuana and cocaine use," DuRant and his colleagues reported.

The results with knives or clubs were similar. "The younger these students first smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol or smoked marijuana, the more likely they were also to have carried a knife or club to school."

But these children also reported carrying knives or clubs to school because they have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property or because of fighting. Some of the weapons carriers also reported they had planned suicide.

"No single method has been found to prevent the use of violence by adolescents," DuRant and his colleagues noted. In earlier studies, DuRant said he had recommended that violence prevention and conflict resolution programs be added to health education curricula for middle schools.

But the new study suggests "similar prevention programs should be introduced in elementary schools. In addition, substance use prevention should be coupled with violence prevention programs in both elementary and middle schools."

He said pediatricians also could play a direct role in prevention -- besides encouraging school officials to add effective violence and substance use prevention programs to their schools.

The doctor should determine: "The earlier that high risk children and adolescents can be identified and interventions provided, the more likely that injury or death from violence can be prevented," they said.

. The study's other authors were Daniel P. Krowchuk, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics, Shelley R. Kreiter, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, Sara H. Sinal, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics, and Charles R. Woods, Jr., M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics. Brenner Children's Hospital is a part of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

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