New report sheds light on students impacted by gun violence

teenTALK, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry is pictured.
Commonwealth Media Services via AP

Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry recently shared findings from a report analyzing the impact of gun violence on teenagers across the state. Henry’s ‘teenTALK‘ report includes information gathered from various round table discussions with 90 students across four schools districts: Philadelphia, McKeesport, Hazelton, and Steelton-Highspire.

According to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  the gun death rate among children and teenagers rose 50% between 2019 and 2021. The American Academy of Pediatrics Journal released a separate study that identified an 87% increase in the gun death rate between 2011 and 2021 among individuals aged 1-18.

Gun fatalities are now the leading cause of accidental death for ages 1 to 19.

In Henry’s teenTALK report, students were given an opportunity to voice their fears, thoughts, and concerns around gun violence and their daily experiences in school. The report is being offered to local schools across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the greater communities surrounding them as a tool to spark dialog around issues of gun violence, which would help advance initiatives and strategies in an effort to promote student learning, safety, and community involvement.

“This report captures the lessons we learned from honest discussions with future leaders who want to see change and want to have a role in making those changes realities in their neighborhoods,” Henry said. “Until every student can grow up free from the scourge of gun violence, we must continue to identify and root out damaging behaviors while offering support resources to help students thrive.”

The schools that participated are among participating districts in the Office of Attorney General’s Safe2Say Something program, a program that allows students to anonymously report incidents of gun violence or concerns of potential threats at their schools and in communities.

In the details of the report, students shared their personal experiences, including the loss of family members and other loved ones. Others expressed frustration as they have been forced to adapt to a new way of life in the face of gun violence, which they say happens far too frequently in their lives.

The experiences and concerns voiced within teenTALK are not just limited to the students involved in this report. Additional issues presented include challenges teens face regarding transparent communication both during and after school safety lockdowns, access to mental health reports, and more.

Students spoke on the anxiety that gun violence could occur at any time, in many cases because they’ve seen or heard that be the case — some acknowledged that they know of other students who carry to protect themselves both in and out of school.

The report also reviews an investigation by The Washington Post, which revealed that over 1,150 guns were confiscated in U.S. schools during the 2022-2023 school year, and 58% of guns seized in 51 of the largest school systems in the United States were not reported in the media.

The teenTALK report is available to every school district in the Commonwealth, and can be read online.