Violence Plagues Local Schools

Violence is still a significant problem in Boston’s public high schools, according to a recent study by a center at the Harvard School of Public Health.

More than 40 percent of male high school students reported having carried a knife and almost 40 percent of male students said they have been assaulted, according to the study, compiled by the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center.

Of the students who had witnessed violence or been victims of violence, few had been through counseling, said Ann Scales, a spokeswoman for the Boston Public Health Commission. She said a high number of students reported symptoms of depression, but that only a few students had received or sought counseling.

“We were probably more distressed about the data that concerned the mental health of students,” she said.

Six percent of Boston public high school students said they carry a gun, and more than 40 percent of all students said it would be easy to obtain a gun, according to the study. Half of those carrying a gun were involved in gangs, the study found.

The report did indicate some improvement in student outlook, as more students reported feeling safe while commuting to school and when in their own neighborhoods, said Deborah R. Azrael ’83, the associate director of the youth violence center at Harvard. She said students also are more likely to trust the police.

The data were released to the community yesterday in Dorchester at the first of a series of meetings led by the Boston Public Health Commission and Mayor Thomas M. Menino. The goal of the meetings is to bring together public health officials, teenagers, and high school and community leaders to devise strategies to clamp down on the violence.

The survey was administered to a random sample of more than 1,200 students from 18 public high schools in Boston last year.

“The data system provides an infrastructure to find out where interventions should be targeted and whether or not they work,” Azrael said.

The Boston Public Health Commission said they hope the meetings will educate and empower youth.

“Youth can’t be seen as part of the problem—they must also be seen as part of the solution,” Scales said.