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4/1/19blog post

why report cards shouldn't be given on Fridays

a recent study found that the incidence of confirmed reports of child abuse almost quadruples on Saturdays following the days that report cards are sent out

failing report cardIf you look on the internet, you will find hundreds of memes about report card day. The memes joke about the way teachers feel about issuing the grades, the way children feel about earning the grades, and the way parents feel about receiving the reports. The reality is that, for some families, particularly those in which children receive poor grades, report cards can trigger some very serious negative consequences. A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics and performed by researchers at the University of Florida found that the incidence of confirmed reports of child abuse almost quadruples on Saturdays following the days that report cards are sent out. Additionally, this association between abuse reports and report cards only existed when the report cards were sent out on Fridays.

Medical evidence already shows that stressful events that occur in a family will increase the likelihood that child abuse will occur in the home. Stressors can take the form of financial pressures, conflict/fighting within the family, or unexpected losses or illness. This recent study shows that receiving report cards can also be a stressful event that increases the likelihood of a child suffering physical abuse. The study validates what the researchers had been hearing about from teachers and pediatricians who were observing this trend in their day-to-day work.

While corporal punishment is a legal form of discipline in the United States, a recent policy statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that spanking as a form of punishment is ineffective and harmful to children. Further, the use of corporal punishment does not include causing physical injury to a child; inflicted injury by a caregiver constitutes child physical abuse.

If we know that report card day can be a stressful time for families, and that it can result in an increased incidence of child physical abuse, what can we do about it?

First, teachers may be able to identify children who receive poor grades as children at risk of being physically abused. Rather than punishing children for their grades, teachers and parents can communicate about ways to identify barriers to a child’s success in school and about ways to help them overcome those barriers. For example, children can be taught how to identify when they are struggling and can learn ways to seek extra help, such as using reliable internet sources, taking initiative to ask the teacher questions, or even requesting a tutor.

Additionally, teachers can provide resources for parents wanting to help their children do well in school. Parents can learn how to support their children through difficult academic times and reward small successes, which will reinforce positive behaviors. These study findings may warrant consideration by school administrators to develop policies around the timing and manner of report card distribution.

Finally, parents and teachers may identify injuries in children which may be inflicted and can report these types of injuries to children’s services.

For additional tips on how to support your child’s academic success:


Kelly Liker, MD

division chief
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