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J Sch Nurs. 2011 Apr;27(2):149-59. doi: 10.1177/1059840510386612. Epub 2010 Oct 18.

Students feeling unsafe in school: fifth graders' experiences.

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St. Xavier University School of Nursing, Chicago, IL, USA.


Children of late elementary school age (fifth grade) provide evidence that many do not feel safe in their schools. The purpose of this study was to examine how children express their experiences of feeling unsafe in school. Questions guiding the study were What percentage of children in this sample report feeling unsafe at school? What are the aftereffects of feeling unsafe? and How do children describe what makes them feel unsafe? Participants included 243 fifth-grade students who, as part of their participation in a larger study, were asked, "Have you felt unsafe at school?" Children responding affirmatively described what made them feel unsafe. Fifty-seven (23.8%) participants indicated they sometimes or always felt unsafe at school, citing teasing, bullying, or other threats that typically occurred when adults were not present. Of these, nearly a third reported being stressed and almost half felt at slight or great risk because of feeling unsafe. When children feel unsafe in school, there are implications for schools, neighborhoods, and larger communities. The related potential for children's increased involvement in health risk behaviors because they feel unsafe merits immediate and thoughtfully planned action.

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