LOS ANGELES — The nation’s high school students lie a lot, cheat a lot, and many show up for class drunk, according to preliminary results of a nationwide teen character study released Monday.
Seven in 10 students surveyed admitted cheating on a test at least once in the past year, and nearly half said they had done so more than once, according to the nonprofit Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics.
“This data reveals a hole in the moral ozone,” said Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Marina Del Rey-based organization.
On the other hand, the results were not significantly worse than on the last test in 1998 – the first time that has happened since the group began testing in 1992.
“The good news appears that it’s peaked,” Josephson said. “The bad news is that it’s horribly high.”
The “Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth” found that 92 percent of the 8,600 students surveyed lied to their parents in the past year. Seventy-eight percent said they had lied to a teacher, and more than one in four said they would lie to get a job.
Nearly one in six students said they had shown up for class drunk at least once in the past year. Sixty-eight percent admitted they hit someone because they were angry.
Nearly half said they could get a gun if they wanted to.
Josephson said the results amounted to the formula for a “toxic cocktail.”
“Kids who think it’s okay to hit someone when they’re angry,” he said, “who may be drunk at school when they do it and who can also get their hands on a gun.”
Josephson stopped short of assigning blame to a particular group, but he said parents, teachers and coaches need to pay special attention because they have the most significant interactions with youngsters.
“I’m not saying there aren’t some out there doing their best,” he said. “But if all three were doing their best, we wouldn’t have this problem.”
The survey, conducted this year, involved students in grades nine through 12 in both public and private schools. Participating schools handed out surveys with 57 questions that students could submit anonymously.
71 percent of the participants admitted to cheating on a test at least once in the past year; 45 percent said they did so two or more times.
92 percent have lied to their parents in the past year; 79 percent said they did so two or more times.
78 percent lied to a teacher; 58 percent lied two or more times.
More than one in four students admitted they would lie to get a job.
Nearly one in six said they have been drunk at school; 9 percent admitted to showing up for class drunk more than once in the past year.
68 percent said they have hit someone because they were angry in the past 12 months; 46 percent said they did it on at least two separate occasions.
47 percent said they could get a gun if they wanted to.