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

Indicator 13: Physical Fights on School Property and Anywhere

The percentage of 9th- to 12th-grade students who reported being in a physical fight anywhere increased from 33 to 36 percent between 2003 and 2005.

Schools where physical fights occur frequently may not be able to maintain a focused learning environment for students. Further, students who participate in fights on school property may have difficulty succeeding in their studies (Payne, Gottfredson, and Gottfredson 2003). In the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, students in grades 9–12 were asked about their general involvement in physical fights during the preceding 12 months (referred to as "anywhere" in this report) and their involvement in physical fights on school property. Fights occurring anywhere are included as a point of comparison with fights occurring on school property. In 2005, some 36 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported being in a fight anywhere, and 14 percent said they had been in a fight on school property (figure 13.1 and table 13.1). Between 2003 and 2005, the percentage of students who reported being in a fight anywhere increased from 33 to 36 percent. However, there was no measurable change in the percentage of students who reported fighting on school property during the same period.

In all survey years, males were more likely than females to have been in a fight anywhere and on school property (figure 13.1 and table 13.1). In 2005, 43 percent of males said they had been in a fight anywhere, compared with 28 percent of females. In the same year, 18 percent of males said they had been in a fight on school property, compared with 9 percent of females. Between 2003 and 2005, the percentage of females who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere increased from 25 to 28 percent.

In 2005, students in lower grades were more likely to report being in fights than students in higher grades, both anywhere and on school property (figure 13.2 and table 13.1). In that year, 19 percent of 9th-graders, 14 percent of 10th-graders, 10 percent of 11th-graders, and 9 percent of 12th-graders reported being in a fight on school property. While it appears that students in most grades were more likely to report being in a physical fight in 2005 than in 2003, the only measurable increase found was for 9th-grade students anywhere: between 2003 and 2005, the percentage of 9th-graders who reported having been in a fight anywhere increased from 39 to 43 percent.

In 2005, the percentage of students engaging in fights varied according to their race/ ethnicity. Specifically, Asian students were less likely than students from all other racial/ ethnic groups to report being in a fight anywhere or on school property. Six percent of Asian students reported being in a fight on school property, compared with 12 to 24 percent of students from other racial/ethnic groups. Between 2003 and 2005, the percentage of Hispanic students who reported having been in a fight anywhere increased from 36 to 41 percent. During the same period, the percentage of Asian students who reported having been in a fight on school property declined from 13 to 6 percent.

In 2005, the percentage of students who reported being in a fight varied among states for which data were available. Among states, the percentages ranged from 24 to 37 percent for being in a fight anywhere, and from 8 to 16 percent for being in a fight on school property (table 13.2).

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