Bullying victims are sneaking hundreds of thousands of firearms, knives and clubs into U.S. high schools, according to a chilling new analysis that carries the eerie echoes of one recent mass school assault and two potential near misses.
Extrapolating from a survey of American high school students by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that bullied students who are threatened or injured by a weapon on school property were eight times more likely to then choose, themselves, to carry a weapon to campus.
More alarming: Bullying episodes have a cumulative effect, vastly boosting the likelihood that a chronically harassed student will choose to pack a weapon before returning to a high school, the study found.
Specifically, bullied students who have endured four types of aggressive clashes at school — being verbally tormented, sustaining a physical assault, suffering personal property theft or damage, and cutting school due to safety concerns — are nearly 49 times more likely to have recently carried a weapon to school and 34 times more likely to have recently smuggled a gun into school, the study found.
“When you combine all of those risk factors, you see scary figures,” said the lead author, Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.
“The CDC gave us the dots — we connected them. The data is staggering,” Adesman added during a phone interview. He will present the findings Sunday to a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver, B.C.
By examining the responses of high school students in a biannual, national survey conducted by the CDC, the researchers estimated that more than 200,000 victims of bullies had secretly lugged weapons such as firearms, knives or clubs into their high schools at least once during a previous month.
“Looking at these risk factors, it’s not hard to know who’s most likely to carry a weapon to school,” Adesman said. He added that some victims of bullies also are bullies themselves, “so it’s not always black and white.”
Bullying is often discussed after mass shootings, even if evidence has been generally mixed. The Columbine shooters, for example, bragged about bullying students themselves. But previous studies have found bullying to be a factor in many school shootings.
The fresh findings are certainly consistent with three 2014 incidents during which students who were reportedly bullied later toted weapons to their schools — and one of those students allegedly inflicted mass injuries.