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Home violence among many issues Buffalo students face

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As part of a national survey, 12,000 Buffalo Public School students were queried about life as they see it, in school and in their home neighborhoods. The results may be surprising.

It is called the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey. Given every two years in October, the survey is prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a myriad of psychological and societal pressures. For Buffalo students, it includes some city-specific questions.

Problems highlighted were the 10 percent of students who reported being physically abused or beaten by an adult in their homes, as well as the 4 percent living in shaky housing or couch-surfing.

Consultant Jessica Weitzel said some things are better in high school.

"The schools are safer and this is really good news for you, especially in the current climate and all that's going on," Weitzel said. "We're seeing less weapon carrying, less independent weapon, less physical fighting. Also, this year's high schoolers are showing less likelihood to be bullied at school online than other high schools in New York State."

Weitzel is president and co-owner of Via Evaluation, which is working with district Associate Superintendent for Student Support Services Eric Rosser to evaluate the data and decide how programs might be altered or new programs started to deal with survey results.

Weitzel said there were fall-offs in high school also.

"Although we saw the violence going down, the community reports feeling less safe," she said. "So you have about 10 percent of BPS high schoolers said they have missed school because they feel unsafe going to or from school. That perception is getting worse."

Because there is so much information and Buffalo findings are compared with results nationwide, it takes time to evaluate. In Buffalo, the results included fewer students with asthma, fewer students having sex at an early age, along with fewer students using some form of contraception during sex.

Superintendent Kriner Cash said this survey will lead to changes, like the high level of students reporting they think about suicide.
"We've done some things as a result of that, that at least say to children and adolescents, 'you have a place to come. Talk to us. We can hear your story and get treatment.' Because we also found that one in five students had mental issues for depression, but only one in five of those were receiving any kind of treatment," Cash said.

Some school board members were very critical of data showing that in some schools, as few as 1 percent of the students had filled out the questionnaires. They want the principals in those schools to explain why.

You can find 2015 results here.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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