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FCN, March 27, 2006


Suburban youth are no better behaved
By K. Chandler
The Westside Gazette
Updated Mar 21, 2004 - 12:58:00 PM

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (NNPA)—A newly released study entitled, "The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health," put out by the conservative think tank Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is sure to stir up more controversy over juvenile justice with its far-reaching conclusions.

Specifically, the study debunks the cruel and debilitating myth, perpetuated by TV and movies, that inner city youth are more sexually promiscuous and prone to substance abuse than their suburban counterparts.

According to the Manhattan Institute study, students in suburban high schools engage in just as much alcohol, tobacco and illegal drug [use] as students in urban schools—or even more so. Furthermore, suburban schools also had about the same level of sexual activity as urban schools.

The comprehensive study "is based on data collected by the federal government in a very large national survey of adolescents," and is considered "a breakthrough" for academia.

Manhattan Institute’s Kay Hymowitz recently noted, "When Americans think about public education, they tend to see a stark divide between the ‘blackboard jungles’ of inner city schools where‘drugs abound’ and ‘gangs rule the hallways,’ and the ‘shining achievement-oriented public schools of the suburbs.’" But that is not necessarily true.

Striking conclusions drawn by the Manhattan Institute’s study:

1. When it comes to sexual intercourse, "urban and suburban schools are virtually identical;"

2. Suburban kids were more likely to have smoked [cigarettes] than urban kids, and were "slightly more active drinkers than urban students;"

3. When it comes to illegal drugs, suburban and urban students were virtually at a dead heat. Almost one out of every seven students in both urban and suburban schools, and about one out of every six 12th graders have been high on drugs at school;

4. When it comes to engaging in a physical fight within the past year, three out of 10 suburban kids have done so, while almost identical numbers of urban kids also engaged in fighting;

5. With respect to delinquency in general, the statistics were "generally the same" for urban and suburban students over the past year with "about a quarter of all urban and suburban students having shoplifted. In addition, one in 10 ran away from home; one in 11 sold drugs and approximately one in 15 has carried a weapon to school.

Many criminal justice advocates believe that the results of this comprehensive study has far-reaching consequences that are only now beginning to be realized. Not only do these results directly fly in the face of persistent media images of lawless minority communities run amok with barbaric juvenile criminals, they are also counter to the image of the suburbs as bastions for clean-cut, wholesome living.

In addition, critics say the study’s results point to the glaring disparity within the juvenile justice system, highlighting two distinctly different standards of justice meted out to America’s youth—a kinder, gentler one for White youth, and another, more intolerable one for Black youth.

To expose the system for the hypocrisy it perpetrates is not enough, criminal justice advocates say. This disparity must be at the forefront of every community forum. It must be among the leading topics on the agenda of every political session and during every church-networking meeting. The other alternative, they say—to expose the myth and then do nothing about it—is unconscionable.


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