Friday report cards line up with child abuse cases

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A year-long study finds a correlation between child abuse cases and the dates elementary schools issue report cards—but only when grades come home on a Friday.

On Saturdays following report card Fridays, cases of child abuse in Florida were four times higher than other Saturdays. The state’s Department of Children and Families verified the abuse cases.

When report cards were issued earlier in the week, there was no increase in abuse cases according to the study, which appears in JAMA Pediatrics.

“It’s a pretty astonishing finding,” says Melissa Bright, a research scientist in the University of Florida’s Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies. “It’s sad, but the good news is there’s a simple intervention—don’t give report cards on Friday.”

To extend the research, Bright wants to look at data in other states. She also wants to pinpoint the underlying causes of the link between report cards and physical abuse. She and her colleagues suspect that parents or guardians are physically punishing children for their grades, “but it might be something else we don’t know about,” she says.

In addition to distributing report cards earlier in the week, schools could consider including messaging to help prevent corporal punishment that crosses the line into abuse. But that’s a sticky issue in Florida, where some counties still allow corporal punishment in public schools.

Florida is not alone: 19 states still allow school personnel to hit students, according to a report from the Gundersen Center for Effective Discipline.

Additional researchers are from the University of Florida, Georgia State University, and Harvard University.

Source: University of Florida