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

Executive Summary

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 PDF File (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.

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Key Findings

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.

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Violent Deaths

  • 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 school year.

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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).

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School Environment

  • 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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education