By: Allen Johnson
New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast apparently have a common problem unruly Katrina kids. A new study by the University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg examined the records of 17,000 Mississippi students and found that hurricane-displaced youths were more apt to get in trouble than nondisplaced students, especially those who were already struggling academically and who came from underprivileged backgrounds. The increased incidence of disciplinary problems suggests that psychological issues for some students have not diminished in the time following the storm, and in fact may have intensified, says USM researcher Dr. Mike Ward, a former North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction. We have always had a few that were daring enough at a very young age, but it seems to be more now than in the past, Police Chief Warren Riley said recently, after a rash of armed robberies by children as young as 12.
Part of the problem is some youths have returned to the city without their parents, the chief says, adding, There is something that has occurred over the last two years that has enticed youngsters to be more bold and more brazen than they have in the past. The USM project, titled Hurricane Katrina: Behavior and Achievement of Displaced Students in the Wake of the Storm, was funded by the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute.