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Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2005

Indicator 8:
Discipline Problems Reported by Public Schools

In 1999-2000, middle schools were more likely than primary and secondary schools to report racial tensions, bullying, verbal abuse of teachers, and widespread disorder in classrooms.

Discipline problems in a school may contribute to an overall environment in which violence and crime may occur. In the School Survey on Crime and Safety, school principals were asked how often certain disciplinary problems happen in their schools. This indicator examines racial tensions, bullying, student verbal abuse of teachers, widespread classroom disorder, and student acts of disrespect for teachers that happened daily or once a week. If gang or cult activities ever occurred in the school, they were included as problematic due to the severe nature of these occurrences.

In 1999-2000, more than one-quarter (29 percent) of public schools reported that student bullying took place on a daily or weekly basis (table 8.1). Among the other frequently occurring discipline problems in public schools, 19 percent reported student acts of disrespect for teachers, 13 percent reported student verbal abuse of teachers, 3 percent reported student racial tensions, and 3 percent reported widespread disorder in classrooms. Furthermore, 19 percent of public schools reported undesirable gang activities, and 7 percent reported that undesirable cult or extremist activities occurred during the 1999-2000 school year.

Frequently occurring discipline problems reported by public schools varied by school characteristics. For example, middle schools were more likely than primary and secondary schools to report racial tensions, bullying, verbal abuse of teachers, and widespread disorder in classrooms (figure 8.1 and table 8.1). Middle schools were also more likely than primary schools, but less likely than high schools, to report gang or extremist cult activity.

The prevalence of frequently occurring discipline problems was related to school size. As school enrollment increased, so did the likelihood of schools reporting each discipline problem at their school except widespread disorder in the classroom—which was reported by relatively few principals (less than 5 percent at all enrollment levels). Twenty-six percent of principals at schools with 1,000 or more students reported student verbal abuse of teachers with 14 percent of schools with 500-999 students, 10 percent of schools with 300-499 students, and 7 percent of schools with less than 300 students.

Schools that reported one or more violent incidents were more likely to report each of the disciplinary problems discussed above than schools with no violent incidents. For example, 34 percent of schools with one or more violent incidents reported that bullying happened at least once a week, compared with 17 percent of schools with no violent incidents.

Figure 8.1. Percentage of public schools that reported selected discipline problems, by school level: 1999-2000

Percentage of public schools that reported selected discipline problems, by school level: 1999-2000

1 Includes schools that reported the activity happens either once a week or daily.
2 Includes schools that reported the activity has happened at all at their school.
3 A gang was defined for respondents as “an ongoing loosely organized association of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, that has a common name, signs, symbols or colors, whose members engage, either individually or collectively, in violent or other forms of illegal behavior.”
4 A cult or extremist group was defined for respondents as “a group that espouses radical beliefs and practices, which may include a religious component, that are widely seen as threatening the basic values and cultural norms of society at large.”
NOTE: Either school principals or the person most knowledgeable about discipline issues at school completed the SSOCS questionnaire. Primary schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not higher than grade 3 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 8. Middle schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not lower than grade 4 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 9. Secondary schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not lower than grade 9 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 12. Combined schools include all other combinations of grades, including K-12 schools.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2000.
View Table 8.1 View Table 8.1


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