What happens when schoolchildren live in violent neighborhoods?

The effects are broader than previously known, a study finds.

Researchers have shown — and teachers know — that schoolchildren exposed to neighborhood violence can have a tougher time learning, experiencing more stress and depression than their peers growing up in safe neighborhoods.

But a Johns Hopkins University sociologist discovered that the consequences of neighborhood violence reach further than previously known, even spilling over to students who come from safe neighborhoods. Using crime and student data from Chicago, Julia Burdick-Will linked exposure to neighborhood violence to a drop in test scores, an effect that extended to students coming from communities that experienced little or no violence.

“When you have kids who are stressed and potentially responding in exaggerated ways or just being upset and traumatized and needing the teacher’s attention . . . it has an effect on everybody in the classroom.”

Burdick-Will said she hopes her work impels schools to focus more resources on students who return to violent neighborhoods when they leave the classroom, offering long-term support rather than just responding to tragedies. But she said she hopes it does not drive districts to isolate these students because that would only amplify the impact of trauma.

“If the effects of violence can be felt in schools across the city, then reducing that violence should become something that is important to residents and policymakers in every neighborhood, not just those with the highest crime rates,” she wrote in her report. “In fact, reducing violence in the city may benefit a much larger number of students than it might seem on the surface.”

“That’s what I want people to get out of this — that a problem elsewhere affects everyone.”

From The Washington Post.

Read the full article here.

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