Objective: To examine the association between weapon carrying on school property and engaging in health risk and problem behaviors such as fighting and substance use on school property, fear of attending school, and victimization at school.
Design: A complex 2-stage probability survey (Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey).
Setting: High schools in Massachusetts.
Participants: Three thousand fifty-four high school students.
Main outcome measure: Number of days a weapon was carried on school property during the 30 days prior to the survey.
Results: The prevalence of self-reported weapon carrying on school property was 15% among male students and 5% among female students (P < .001). Weapon carrying on school property was significantly (P < .001) associated with frequency of physical fights on school property (r = 0.26), being a victim of threat or injury with a weapon on school property (r = 0.27), being a victim of stolen or damaged goods on school property (r = 0.14), not attending school owing to fear (r = 0.15), and substance use while at school, including smoking cigarettes (r = 0.20), using chewing tobacco (r = 0.18), smoking marijuana (r = 0.24), and using alcohol (r = 0.29). The association between weapon carrying and alcohol use in school was higher among students who were afraid to come to school (r = 0.49) than among students who were not afraid (r = 0.28). Students who had engaged in same-sex sexual activity (P < .001) or had been offered, given, or sold illicit drugs at school (P < .001) were more likely to carry a weapon at school. Multiple regression analysis showed that male sex and the frequencies of physical fighting, being a victim of a threat or injury, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and being offered or sold an illicit drug while on school property accounted for 21% of the variance in weapon carrying in school. When weapon carrying was dichotomized and analyzed with logistic regression, a model containing age, male sex, lower academic achievement, days not attending school owing to fear, times threatened or injured with a weapon at school, frequency of fighting at school, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and being offered or sold illicit drugs on school property correctly classified 91.83% of the students who did or did not carry weapons.
Conclusions: Weapon carrying at school was more strongly associated more with use of violence and the use of substances at school than with previous victimization and fear of attending school. However, there is a subgroup of students that seems to have been victimized at school, is afraid to come to school, is using alcohol at school, and is carrying weapons at school.