Our nation's schools should be safe havens for teaching and learning, free of crime and
violence. Any instance of crime or violence at school not only affects the individuals
involved but also may disrupt the educational process and affect bystanders, the school
itself, and the surrounding community (Henry 2000).
Ensuring safer schools requires establishing good indicators of the current state of
school crime and safety across the nation and regularly updating and monitoring these
indicators. This is the aim of Indicators of School Crime and Safety.
This report is the tenth in a series of annual publications produced jointly by the
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Institute of Education Sciences (IES),
in the U.S. Department of Education, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the
U.S. Department of Justice. This report presents the most recent data available on
school crime and student safety. The indicators in this report are based on information
drawn from a variety of data sources, including national surveys of students, teachers,
and principals. Such sources include results from a study of violent deaths in
schools, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention; the National Crime Victimization Survey and School Crime
Supplement to the survey, sponsored by the BJS and NCES, respectively; the Youth Risk
Behavior Survey, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the
Schools and Staffi ng Survey and School Survey on Crime and Safety, both sponsored
by NCES. The most recent data collection for each indicator varied by survey, from
2003–04 to 2005–06. Each data source has an independent sample design, data
collection method, and questionnaire design or is the result of a universe data
collection. All comparisons described in this report are statistically signifi cant at the .05
level. In 2005, the fi nal response rate for students age 12 to 18 for the School Crime
Supplement (56 percent),1 fell below the NCES statistical standards; therefore, interpret
the 2005 data from Indicators 3, 8, 10, 11, 17, 18, and 21 with caution. Additional
information about methodology and the datasets analyzed in this report may be found
in appendix A (178 KB).
This report covers topics such as victimization, fights, bullying, classroom disorder,
weapons, student perceptions of school safety, teacher injury, and availability and
student use of drugs and alcohol. Indicators of crime and safety are compared across
different population subgroups and over time. Data on crimes that occur outside of
school grounds are offered as a point of comparison where available.
In the 2005–06 school year, an estimated 54.8 million students were enrolled in
prekindergarten through grade 12 (U.S. Department of Education 2007). Preliminary
data show that among youth ages 5–18, there were 17 school-associated violent
deaths2 from July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006 (14 homicides and 3 suicides)
(Indicator 1). In 2005, among students ages 12–18, there were about 1.5 million
victims of nonfatal crimes at school,3 including 868,100 thefts4 and 628,200 violent
crimes5 (simple assault and serious violent crime6) (Indicator 2). There is some
evidence that student safety has improved. The victimization rate of students ages
12–18 at school declined between 1992 and 2005 (Indicator 2). However, violence,
theft, drugs, and weapons continue to pose problems in schools. During the 2005–06
school year, 86 percent of public schools reported that at least one violent crime, theft,
or other crime occurred at their school (Indicator 6). In 2005, 8 percent of students in
grades 9–12 reported being threatened or injured with a weapon in the previous 12
months, and 25 percent reported that drugs were made available to them on school
property (Indicators 4 and 9). In the same year, 28 percent of students ages 12–18
reported having been bullied at school during the previous 6 months (Indicator 11).
The following section presents key findings from each section of the report.
- From July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006, there were 14 homicides and 3 suicides of
school-age youth (ages 5–18) at school (Indicator 1), or about 1 homicide or suicide
of a school-age youth at school per 3.2 million students enrolled during the 2005–06
Nonfatal Student and Teacher Victimization
- In 2005, students ages 12–18 were victims of about 1.5 million nonfatal crimes at school, including thefts4 and violent crimes5 (Indicator 2).
- Students ages 12–18 were generally more likely to be victims of theft4 at school than away from school (Indicator 2). In 2005, 33 thefts4 per 1,000 students occurred at school and 23 thefts4 per 1,000 students occurred away from school.
- In 2005, 4 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being victimized at school during the previous 6 months: 3 percent reported theft,4 and 1 percent reported violent victimization5 (Indicator 3). Less than half of a percent of students reported serious violent victimization.6
- Between 2003 and 2005, the percentage of students ages 12–18 reporting victimization declined (from 5 to 4 percent), as did the percentage reporting theft4 (from 4 to 3 percent); there were no measurable changes in the percentages reporting violent5 and serious violent crime6 during the same period (Indicator 3).
- In 2005, 10 percent of male students in grades 9–12 reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in the past year, compared to 6 percent of female students (Indicator 4).
- Hispanic students were more likely than White students to report being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in 2005 (10 vs. 7 percent) (Indicator 4). However, no measurable differences were found in the percentages of Black and White students, or Black and Hispanic students who reported being threatened or injured in this way.
- In the 2003–04 school year, a greater percentage of teachers in city schools reported being threatened with injury or physically attacked in 2003–04 than teachers in suburban, town, or rural schools (Indicator 5). For example, in 2003–04, 10 percent of teachers in city schools were threatened with injury by students, compared to 6 percent of teachers in suburban schools, 5 percent of teachers in town schools, and 5 percent of teachers in rural schools.
- A greater percentage of secondary school teachers (8 percent) reported being threatened with injury by a student than elementary school teachers (6 percent) (Indicator 5). However, a greater percentage of elementary school teachers (4 percent) reported having been physically attacked than secondary school teachers (2 percent).
- A greater percentage of public than private school teachers reported being threatened with injury (7 vs. 2 percent) or physically attacked (4 vs. 2 percent) by students in school (Indicator 5). Among teachers in city schools, those in public schools were at least five times more likely to be threatened with injury than their colleagues in private schools (12 vs. 2 percent) and at least four times more likely to be physically attacked (5 vs. 1 percent).
- In 2005–06, 86 percent of public schools reported one or more serious violent
incidents,7 violent incidents,8 thefts of items valued at $10 or greater, or other crimes
had occurred at their school, amounting to an estimated 2.2 million crimes (Indicator 6).
This figure translates into a rate of 46 crimes per 1,000 students enrolled in 2005–06.
- The percentage of public schools experiencing incidents of crime was lower in 2005–06
than in 2003–04 (Indicator 6). However, the percentage of schools experiencing
crimes in 2005–06 was not measurably different from the percentage of schools
experiencing crimes in 1999–2000.
- In 2005–06, 24 percent of public schools reported that student bullying was a daily
or weekly problem (Indicator 7). With regard to other discipline problems occurring
at least once a week, 18 percent of public school principals reported student acts of
disrespect for teachers, 9 percent reported student verbal abuse of teachers, 3 percent
reported daily or weekly occurrences of racial/ethnic tensions among students, and 2
percent reported widespread disorder in classrooms. With regard to other discipline
problems occurring at least once per school year, 17 percent of principals reported
undesirable gang activities and 4 percent reported undesirable cult or extremist
activities during 2005–06.
- In 2005–06, a higher percentage of middle schools than primary schools reported
various types of discipline problems (Indicator 7). Also, a higher percentage of middle
schools than high schools reported daily or weekly occurrences of student bullying and
student sexual harassment of other students.
- In 2005, 24 percent of students ages 12–18 reported that there were gangs at their
schools (Indicator 8). Students in urban schools (36 percent) were more likely to report
the presence of gangs at their school than suburban students (21 percent) and rural
students (16 percent).
- The percentage of students reporting the presence of gangs increased from 21 to 24 percent
between 2003 and 2005 (Indicator 8). The percentage of students at urban schools reporting
the presence of gangs at school increased from 31 to 36 percent during this period.
- In 2005, one-quarter of all students in grades 9–12 reported that someone had offered,
sold, or given them an illegal drug on school property in the past 12 months (Indicator 9).
- Eleven percent of students ages 12–18 reported that someone at school had used hate-related
words against them, and more than one-third (38 percent) reported seeing hate-related
graffiti at school in 2005 (Indicator 10).
- In 2005, 28 percent of students ages 12–18 reported having been bullied at school
during the previous 6 months (Indicator 11). Of these students, 53 percent said that the
bullying had happened once or twice during that period, 25 percent had experienced
bullying once or twice a month, 11 percent reported having been bullied once or twice
a week, and 8 percent said they had been bullied almost daily.
- Of those students who reported bullying incidents that involved being pushed,
shoved, tripped, or spit on (9 percent), 24 percent reported that they had sustained an
injury9 during the previous 6 months as a result (Indicator 11). While no measurable
differences were found by sex in students' likelihood of reporting a bullying incident
in 2005, among students who reported being bullied, males were more likely than
females to report being injured during such an incident (31 vs. 18 percent).
- In 2003–04, 35 percent of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that student misbehavior
interfered with their teaching and 31 percent reported that student tardiness and class
cutting interfered with their teaching (Indicator 12). Seventy-two percent of teachers
agreed or strongly agreed that other teachers at their school enforced the school rules,
and 88 percent reported that the principal enforced the school rules in 2003–04.
- A higher percentage of elementary school teachers than secondary school teachers agreed
that school rules were enforced by teachers in their school, even for students not in their
class (Indicator 12). In 2003–04, 79 percent of elementary teachers reported that school
rules were enforced by other teachers, compared to 56 percent of secondary teachers.
Fights, Weapons, and Illegal Substances
- In 2005, 36 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported they had been in a fight
anywhere, and 14 percent said they had been in a fight on school property during the
previous 12 months (Indicator 13). In the same year, 43 percent of males said they had
been in a fight anywhere, compared to 28 percent of females, and 18 percent of males
said they had been in a fight on school property, compared to 9 percent of females.
- Nineteen percent of students in grades 9–12 in 2005 reported they had carried a
weapon anywhere, and 6 percent reported they had carried a weapon on school
property during the previous 30 days (Indicator 14). Males were more than two times
more likely than females to carry a weapon—either anywhere or on school property—
in all survey years. In 2005, for example, 10 percent of males carried a weapon on
school property, compared to 3 percent of females, and 30 percent of males carried a
weapon anywhere, compared to 7 percent of females.
- In 2005, 43 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported having consumed at least one
drink of alcohol anywhere, and 4 percent reported having consumed at least one drink
on school property during the previous 30 days (Indicator 15). Hispanic students (8
percent) were more likely to report using alcohol on school property than White, Black,
or Asian students (4, 3, and 1 percent, respectively).
- Twenty percent of students in grades 9–12 in 2005 reported using marijuana anywhere
during the past 30 days, and 5 percent reported using marijuana on school property
during this period (Indicator 16). At school, Hispanic students (8 percent) and American
Indian students (9 percent) were more likely to report using marijuana than White or
Black students (4 and 5 percent, respectively).
Fear and Avoidance
- In 2005, approximately 6 percent of students ages 12–18 reported that they were afraid
of attack or harm at school, and 5 percent reported that they were afraid of attack or
harm away from school (Indicator 17). The percentage of students who reported that
they were afraid of being attacked at school (including on the way to and from school)
decreased from 12 to 6 percent between 1995 and 2005.
- Black and Hispanic students were more likely than White students to fear for their
safety regardless of location in 2005 (Indicator 17). Nine percent of Black students
and 10 percent of Hispanic students reported that they were afraid of being attacked
at school (including on the way to and from school), compared to 4 percent of White
students. Away from school, 7 percent of Black students, 6 percent of Hispanic
students, and 4 percent of White students reported that they were afraid of an attack.
- In 2005, 6 percent of students ages 12–18 reported that they had avoided a school
activity or one or more places in school in the previous 6 months because of fear of
attack or harm: 2 percent of students avoided a school activity, and 4 percent avoided
one or more places in school (Indicator 18). Consistent with most previous years,
students in urban areas in 2005 were the most likely to avoid places in school: 6
percent of urban students reported that they had done so, compared to 4 percent of
suburban and rural students.
Discipline, Safety, and Security Measures
- Forty-eight percent of public schools reported taking at least one serious disciplinary
action against a student—including suspensions lasting 5 days or more, removals with
no services (i.e., expulsions), and transfers to specialized schools—for specific offenses
during the 2005–06 school year (Indicator 19). Of those serious disciplinary actions,
74 percent were suspensions for 5 days or more, 5 percent were expulsions, and 20
percent were transfers to specialized schools.
- The largest percentage of schools that reported taking a disciplinary action in 2005–06
did so in response to a physical attack or fight: 32 percent of schools reported taking a
serious disciplinary action for physical attacks or fights (Indicator 19).
- In the 2005–06 school year, 5 percent of public schools reported performing drug
testing on athletes and 3 percent reported doing so for students in other extracurricular
activities (Indicator 20). A higher percentage of public high schools than middle or
primary schools reported performing drug tests on students: 13 percent of high schools
reported performing drug tests on athletes, compared to 7 percent of middle schools
and 1 percent of primary schools.
- The vast majority of students ages 12–18 reported that their school had a student code
of conduct (95 percent) and a requirement that visitors sign in (93 percent) in 2005
(Indicator 21). Metal detectors were the least commonly observed security measure,
with 11 percent of students reporting their use at their school.
1 Analysis of unit nonresponse found evidence that for some demographic groups, there may be a response
bias in that the nonrespondents have different characteristics than those who responded. Weighting
adjustments, which corrected for differential response rates, should have reduced the problem. Therefore,
while the results are valid, in interpreting the data from Indicators 3, 8, 10, 11, 17, 18, and 21, a reader should
understand that these estimates may have larger and unmeasured sources of survey error than other estimates.
2 School-associated violent death is defined as "a homicide, suicide, legal intervention (involving a law
enforcement officer), or unintentional firearm-related death in which the fatal injury occurred on the campus
of a functioning elementary or secondary school in the United States." Victims of school-associated violent
deaths included students, staff members, and others who are not students.
3 See appendix B for a detailed definition of "at school."
4 Theft includes purse snatching, pick pocketing, and all attempted and completed thefts except motor vehicle
thefts. Theft does not include robbery in which threat or use of force is involved.
5 Violent crimes include serious violent crimes and simple assault.
6 Serious violent crimes include rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault.
7 Serious violent incidents include rape or attempted rape, sexual battery other than rape, physical attack or
fight with a weapon, threat of physical attack with a weapon, and robbery with or without a weapon. Serious
violent incidents are a subset of violent incidents.
8 Violent incidents include serious violent incidents plus physical attacks or fights without a weapon and
threats of physical attacks without a weapon. Serious violent incidents are a subset of violent incidents.
9 Injury includes bruises or swelling; cuts, scratches, or scrapes; black eye or bloody nose; teeth chipped or
knocked out; broken bones or internal injuries; knocked unconscious; or other injuries.