Study: Child abuse quadrupled if report cards went home on Fridays

University of Florida researchers are urging schools not to send student report cards home on Fridays, citing new research that child abuse cases spike when report cards are sent home at the start of the weekend.

A group led by UF researchers Melissa Bright and Randell Alexander compared a year’s worth of verified Florida child abuse cases to the dates elementary school report cards were issued and found a correlation.

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On Saturdays after Friday report card releases, the Florida Department of Children and Families verified four times as many child abuse cases as on other Saturdays, according to the study. But when report cards were issued early- or mid-week, there was no child-abuse spike.

The study was published today in the American Medical Association’s journal, JAMA Pediatrics.

“It’s a pretty astonishing finding,” said 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.”

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Bright said she wants to expand the study beyond Florida and wants to confirm the causes of the correlation. University of Florida officials said the researchers suspect that children are being physically punished for their grades, “but it might be something else we don’t know about,” Bright said.

“I have to feel like my research can really make a difference,” Bright said. “That’s why I like working with pediatricians and teachers. They’re hungry for data to make things better, and I’m excited to use my research knowledge to give them those answers.”

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