Bringing home a report card can be an emotional time for any young student. Will they get to celebrate their achievements with their parents, or maybe get encouraged to try harder next semester? A study found another strong emotion that often comes home with the student: Fear.
A study by University of Florida researchers found confirmed reports of child abuse in Florida nearly quadrupled on the Saturdays after report cards were sent home.
The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at students ages 5 to 11 and relied on calls to the Florida Department of Children and Families abuse hotline in the 2015-16 academic year. They noted these were only the instances of abuse that were actually reported, indicating the number of abused children may well be much higher.
One of the study’s authors said the research came about after he and colleagues heard numerous children talk about being beaten for bringing home bad grades. They saw children with black eyes, marks from belts and electrical cords and sometimes more serious injuries. When they asked about their injuries, the children would say it was because of their grades on their report card.
They compared a year’s worth of verified abuse cases to the dates elementary school report cards were issued and found a link between the two, but only if the report cards went home on a Friday. When grades went out earlier in the week, there was no increase in abuse cases.
The authors suggested that schools consider sending home messages to parents and guardians to show when punishment crosses the line into abuse.
But they noted the most effective intervention may just be for schools to stop sending out report cards on Fridays.