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Education: Bullying is a problem in West Virginia

Improving public schools has been a recurring topic among educators, legislators and many other West Virginians during the past couple of years. One advance would be to ensure all children are in the right frame of mind to learn.

Youngsters who are afraid suffer in that regard. And, to judge by a national survey, a disturbing percentage of Mountain State high school students do not feel entirely safe all the time.

High school students throughout the United States are surveyed regularly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are asked a wide range of questions about their wellbeing. Included are queries about everything from diet to driving, drugs to dating. One series of data involves issues such as bullying and safety at school.

West Virginia’s sample size — between 1,400 and 1,500 student responses to most questions — is noticeably larger than the number in many other states. That lends credibility to results of what the CDC terms its High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Here are a few of the questions:

Students were asked whether they had ever been bullied while on school property. Of West Virginia respondents, 23.7 percent said yes. The national average was much lower, at 19 percent.

Had they ever been electronically bullied? Yes, said 18.5 percent of Mountain State respondents. The national average was lower, at 17.2 percent. Interestingly, the CDC’s survey a decade ago did not even register responses to that question.

Had they ever been in a fight on school property? In West Virginia, 6.2 percent said yes, compared to 8.5 percent nationally.

They also were asked whether they had ever been threatened with or injured by a weapon while on school property. Yes, said 6.5 percent of students surveyed in our state. The national average was 6 percent.

A shocking 9.4 percent of Mountain State students said they had attempted suicide during the 12 months prior to the survey. That was two points higher than the national average.

Bullying, both physical and psychological, seems to be a problem everywhere — but worse in West Virginia. Doing more to reduce the number of victims would do a great deal toward improving how many students do in school.

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