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Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2007
NCES 2008-021
December 2007

Indicator 7: Discipline Problems Reported by Public Schools

Between 1999–2000 and 2005–06, the percentage of principals reporting student bullying as a frequently occurring discipline problem declined from 29 to 24 percent and student verbal abuse of teachers declined from 13 to 9 percent.

The existence of discipline problems in a school may contribute to an environment that facilitates school violence and crime. In the School Survey on Crime and Safety, school principals were asked how often certain disciplinary problems happen in their schools. This indicator examines the daily or weekly occurrence of student racial tensions, bullying, sexual harassment of other students, verbal abuse of teachers, widespread classroom disorder, and acts of disrespect for teachers in public schools. It also looks at occurrences of undesirable gang and cult activities, and due to the severe nature of these incidents, presents all reports of gang and cult activities during the school year.

Twenty-four percent of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students on a daily or weekly basis and 18 percent reported that student acts of disrespect for teachers took place on a daily or weekly basis during the 2005–06 school year (figure 7.1 and table 7.1). With regard to other frequently occurring discipline problems in public schools (those occurring at least once a week), 9 percent of principals reported student verbal abuse of teachers, 3 percent reported student sexual harassment of other students, 3 percent reported student racial/ethnic tensions, and 2 percent reported widespread disorder in classrooms. Seventeen percent of public schools reported that undesirable gang activities and 4 percent reported that undesirable cult or extremist activities had happened at all during 2005–06. The percentage of principals reporting that student bullying and student verbal abuse of teachers occurred at least once a week declined between 1999–2000 and 2005–06 (table 7.1). During this period, the percentage of principals reporting student bullying as a frequently occurring discipline problem declined from 29 to 24 percent and student verbal abuse of teachers declined from 13 to 9 percent.

Discipline problems reported by public schools varied by school characteristics in 2005–06. In general, the percentage of principals reporting discipline problems was higher in large schools than in small schools (figure 7.1 and table 7.2). For example, 35 percent of principals at schools with 1,000 or more students reported that student acts of disrespect for teachers occurred at least once a week, whereas 12 percent at schools with less than 300 students reported this discipline problem. Also, in 2005–06, a higher percentage of middle schools than primary schools reported various types of discipline problems. 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 2005–06, the percentage of schools reporting the discipline problems of widespread disorder in the classroom, student acts of disrespect for teachers, student verbal abuse of teachers, and undesirable gang activities was generally smaller for schools where 20 percent or fewer of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch than for schools where more than 50 percent of the students were eligible (table 7.2). For example, 14 percent of schools where more than 50 percent of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch reported the daily or weekly occurrence of student verbal abuse of teachers compared to 3 percent of schools where 20 percent or fewer of the students were eligible. The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs is a proxy measure of school poverty.

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