Federal Study Examines School Health Policy
Mandates that schools teach such health education topics as suicide prevention and pregnancy prevention are far more likely to originate at the district level than at the state level, according to a federal study.
Those are among the many findings contained in the "School Health Policies and Programs Study 2000," released last month by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study is a national survey conducted periodically to evaluate school health policies at the state, district, school, and classroom levels.
While 80 percent of districts nationwide require suicide- prevention education for at least one age group, the report shows, only 48 percent of states have such requirements. And while 83 percent of districts require pregnancy-prevention education for at least one age group, only about half the states have similar requirements.
Nearly all the school police officers questioned in a recent survey said that they carry firearms on the job, and that they believe the presence of those firearms does not pose a safety risk to students.
A poll of 689 school-based police officers, released last week by the Boynton Beach, Fla.- based National Association of School Resource Officers, found that 97 percent carry a firearm while on duty in schools, 98 percent do not believe that an officer who is armed puts students at risk, and 91 percent believe that an unarmed officer leaves students at greater risk for harm or injury.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
Teenagers who participate in after-school, extracurricular activities—such as bands, sports teams, clubs, and community groups—are more likely to graduate from high school than those who spend their afternoon hours without adult supervision, a study concludes.
For the study, which appeared in the March issue of the journal Rural Sociology, Glenn Israel, a sociologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, analyzed a federally funded University of Chicago survey of 24,000 8th through 12th graders in 1,000 schools nationwide.
Ninety percent of those who were involved in an organized program after school graduated from high school. Of those who were not involved in such programs and spent three or more hours alone after school, 84 percent completed school.
Even though the numbers declined during the 1990s, more than 4 million children in the United States still live in homes without telephones, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by Kids Count, a project of the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Among other findings, the report says that more than 16 percent of children in the poorest families—those with annual incomes less than $10,000— live without a phone, compared with 2 percent of those in families making more than $50,000.
Geographical differences are apparent as well. Children in central cities and rural areas are likely to live without a phone more than are suburban youngsters. And the percentage of children without home phones ranges from 2.2 percent in Maine to almost 18 percent in New Mexico.
Educators and policymakers who had hoped to transform Philadelphia parents and community members into education leaders failed to appreciate the amount of time, effort, and resources it would take to change relations that have traditionally excluded parents and community members from decision-making roles in schools, a report suggests.
The Philadelphia school district "did not provide the professional development school principals and teachers needed to work collaboratively with parents and community members, including how to work through the inevitable tensions and conflict of changing roles and expectations," says the report, released last month by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. The consortium is based in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania's school of education.
The children of the 1990s were let down by the world's leaders, concludes a report by the United Nation's Children's Fund.
Despite some progress in improving the lives of children, the report notes that more than 10 million children under age 5 worldwide die each year from preventable diseases; that 149 million youngsters in developing countries suffer from malnutrition; that more than 100 million children do not attend school; and that millions are involved in child labor and prostitution.
The suggested link between childhood neurological disorders and the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, which is in some childhood vaccinations, remains unclear, according to a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences.
Thimerosal was widely used in vaccinations for hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and haemophilus influenzae type B until 1999. After that, public-health organizations ordered drug companies to remove the preservative from vaccines in the United States to reduce public exposure to mercury. But leftover supplies of vaccinations containing thimerosal are still being used.
Boys and Puberty
Boys in the United States appear to be reaching puberty earlier than in past decades, a change that could heighten the risks of suffering from testicular cancer later in life, according to a study published last month in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, analyzed 2,114 boys ages 8 to 19 who participated in federal surveys conducted in 1988 and 1994.
Marcia Herman-Giddens, the lead researcher, said the findings suggest that boys may be entering puberty at about age 11 or earlier, up to six months younger than previous research indicated. But she cautioned that her numbers were highly speculative.
Vol. 21, Issue 7, Page 10