Student Injury Rates in Public Schools

By Kaldahl, Mark A.; Blair, Earl H. | Journal of School Health, January 2005 | Go to article overview
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Student Injury Rates in Public Schools


Kaldahl, Mark A., Blair, Earl H., Journal of School Health


Schools that fail to protect students from injury while on school grounds or involved in school-sponsored activities ignore a basic responsibility. (1) Few would argue that a school with a high number of student injuries can be classified as a "good school" regardless of how successful the school is in promoting academic achievement.

Student injury rates have been addressed in the literature. Di Scala et al (2) found most student injuries occur in older students (10-14 years of age) and in grades 5-9. Male students had a higher injury rate than female students: 1.62/100 compared to 1.1/100. Each group sustained injuries specific to their respective age groups. Overall, high-risk students were identified as males in grades four to six. Factors associated with student injuries included collisions with fixed objects, trips, and falls.

Junkins et al (3) collected standardized accident and injury information from Utah's public schools during 1990-1997. Their analysis of 44,565 school accident records found a student injury rate of 1.37/100. Junkins et al (3) found most school injuries occurred to students in grades four to six (9-11 years of age).

Limbos et al (4) reviewed Accident Report Forms from the Los Angeles (Calif.) Unified School District that includes 700,000 students and 660 schools. They reviewed 3,279 reports from the 1997 school year and found a student injury rate of 1.74/100. High school students had the highest injury rate at 2.22/100, followed by elementary students at 1.57/100, and junior high students at 1.17/100.

SURVEY PLANNING

Schools were selected from the list of public schools listed in the 2002 Indiana School Directory. (5) Only schools identified as elementary, junior high, or senior high were selected. Other schools listed in the directory, Special Education, Vocational Education, and Alternative Schools, were not included.

The survey, conducted in 2003, used the Student Injury Prevention Survey (SIPS) to obtain information from school principals about student injury prevention practices. In addition to open-ended questions, the survey asked school principals to report the number of students who visited the school nurse on a daily basis as a result of a school-related injury. Knowing the number of injuries occurring per day allowed the school's student injury rate to be computed by taking the reported number, dividing by number of students enrolled at the school, and multiplying by 100.

SURVEY FINDINGS

The survey found a student injury rate to be 2.55/100. Junior high schools reported the highest injury rate at 2.66/100, followed by elementary schools at 2.58/100, and senior high schools at 2.21/100.

Using data from a national pediatric trauma database, Di Scala et al (2) also found most student injuries occur in junior high school. Limbos et al (4) found most student injuries occur in senior high school at 2.22/100, followed by elementary school at 1.57/100, and junior high school at 1.17/100. Junkins et al (3) found most student injuries occur in elementary school rather than junior high school as reported by Di Scala. This survey supported Di Scala's findings that most student injuries occur in junior high school at 2.66/100, followed by elementary school at 2.58/100, and senior high school at 2.21/100.

Though Indiana's student injury rate was 2.55/100, this rate was still lower than Sheps et al (6) reported in a study from Vancouver, British Columbia. In their study, Sheps et al reviewed Vancouver School Board Accident Report Forms for school years 1981 to 1983, and found an overall student injury rate of 2.82/100 students. Elementary school students (in Canada, elementary school ranges from kindergarten through seventh grade) had a slightly higher rate than secondary school students (eighth to 12th grade), of 2.85/100 students and 2.78/100 students, respectively.

IMPLICATIONS FOR STUDENT SAFETY

Unfortunately, no national system, public or private, collects comprehensive data on school injuries.

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