Survey finds many girls in Florida middle and high schools don’t feel safe

New study discovers Florida’s most vulnerable girls suffer from significant rates of violence and victimization.
New study discovers Florida’s most vulnerable girls suffer from significant rates of violence and victimization.

Florida’s most vulnerable girls suffer from high rates of violence and victimization, according to a new study.

The report, published by the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, found that girls of color, living in rural areas, or who don’t identify as heterosexual are more likely to be bullied and have poorer grades.

The study surveyed 27,000 girls attending a Florida middle school or high school. There were nearly 2.7 million students enrolled in a Florida public school — from elementary to high school — in 2013, based on recent records.

The study found that 1 in 10 girls of those surveyed report having been raped, nearly 1 in 5 have contemplated suicide and 2 in 3 high school-aged girls have been verbally bullied, according to the research.

And while 89 percent said they enjoyed school, and another 81 percent said they received mostly A’s and B’s in the last school year, 1 in 3 said they don’t feel safe in school, the survey found.

Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, CEO and president of the Policy Center, said girls become more likely to act out as these traumas compound. This often leaves systems incapable of properly caring for girls — like juvenile justice and child services.

“Every day we see girls with serious unaddressed mental health issues related to violence and victimization who end up locked away in detention centers where their needs are being exacerbated,” Vanessa Patino Lydia, an executive within the center and co-author of the reports, said in a press release.

Roy Miller, president of The Children’s Campaign, challenged Florida’s leaders to do a better job of creating programs that can better help these girls.

“The Status of Girls reports are a renewed call to action to move beyond ineffective programs and services and chaotic turnover and turmoil and base policy and service on needs rather than controlling unwanted behavior,” Miller said.

The Florida Women’s Funding Alliance, affiliated with the Florida Philanthropic Network, funded the research.

C. Isaiah Smalls II is a reporter covering breaking and trending news for the Miami Herald. Previously, he worked for ESPN’s The Undefeated as part of their inaugural class of Rhoden Fellows. He is a graduate of both Columbia University and Morehouse College.