Release of school report cards on a Friday is associated with a significant rise in certified child physical abuse reports the following day, a retrospective study of a single academic year in Florida found. However, release of report cards on Monday through Thursday is not associated with increased incidence of abuse the same day as the release or the day that follows.
Investigators extracted a database from calls to the Florida child abuse hotline and focused on calls that became verified cases of physical abuse, defined as physical injury, bizarre punishment, asphyxiation, burns, bone fracture, or internal injury. Cases of physical abuse during the 2015-2016 academic year totaled 1943 across the state, representing 6.7% of total calls to the child abuse hotline. Almost 60% of abuse cases related to boys, 41% to girls, 48% for white children, 41% for black children, and smaller percentages for Asian, Native American, and mixed or unknown race youngsters.
Report cards were issued more often on Fridays than on any other day. On Saturdays after a Friday report card release, the incidence rate of physical abuse was nearly 300% higher than the incidence was on Saturdays following Fridays when report cards were not released. In addition, the incidence rate of physical abuse on Saturdays, regardless of whether or not report cards were released, was higher than the incidence rate for all other days (Bright MA, et al JAMA Pediatr. December 17, 2018. Epub ahead of print.).
Thoughts from Dr Burke
Okay. So, go ahead and ask the local school board to distribute report cards on Monday, or any day but Friday. Then pause and think about how sad this statistic is and how scary report card day may be for some students. The authors suggest that early in the week parents are too busy to punish children for poor school performance or that they are concerned that signs of physical abuse would be detected at school the next day. I wonder if increased use of alcohol on weekends might also play a role.