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Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2008
NCES 2009-022
April 2009

Key Findings

In the 2006–07 school year, an estimated 55.5 million students were enrolled in prekindergarten through grade 12 (U.S. Department of Education 2008). Preliminary data show that among youth ages 5–18, there were 35 school-associated violent deaths2 from July 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007 (27 homicides and 8 suicides) (Indicator 1). In 2006, among students ages 12–18, there were about 1.7 million victims of nonfatal crimes at school,3 including 909,500 thefts4 and 767,000 violent crimes5 (simple assault and serious violent crime6) (Indicator 2). 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 2007, 8 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported being threatened or injured with a weapon in the previous 12 months, and 22 percent reported that illegal drugs were made available to them on school property (Indicators 4 and 9). The following section presents key findings from each section of the report.

Violent Deaths

  • From July 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007, there were 27 homicides and 8 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 1.6 million students enrolled during the 2006–07 school year.

Nonfatal Student and Teacher Victimization

  • In 2006, students ages 12–18 were victims of about 1.7 million nonfatal crimes at school, including thefts4 and violent crimes5 (Indicator 2).
  • More students ages 12–18 were victims of theft at school than away from school in 2006 (Indicator 2). In 2006, 34 thefts per 1,000 students occurred at school compared to 25 thefts per 1,000 students that occurred away from school.4
  • In 2007, 4 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being victimized at school during the previous 6 months: 3 percent reported theft,4 and 2 percent reported violent victimization5 (Indicator 3). Less than half of a percent of students reported serious violent victimization.6
  • In 2007, 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 5 percent of female students (Indicator 4).
  • Higher percentages of Black students (10 percent) and Hispanic students (9 percent) reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property than White students (7 percent) and American Indian/Alaska Native students (6 percent) (Indicator 4).
  • In the 2003–04 school year, a greater percentage of teachers in city schools reported being threatened with injury or physically attacked than teachers in suburban, town, or rural schools (Indicator 5). In city schools, 10 percent of teachers 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, generally, there were at least five times as many public school teachers as private school teachers who reported being threatened with injury (12 vs. 2 percent), and at least four times as many public school teachers as private school teachers who reported being physically attacked (5 vs. 1 percent).

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.
  • There was a range in the rate of crimes reported by schools in 2005–06. For example, 46 percent of schools experienced 20 or more violent incidents per 1,000 students, compared to 1 percent of schools that experienced 1 or 2 such incidents per 1,000 students and 22 percent of schools that reported zero incidents (Indicator 6)9.
  • 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 2007, 23 percent of students ages 12–18 reported that there were gangs at their schools (Indicator 8). Overall, a smaller percentage of White students (16 percent) and Asian students (17 percent) reported a gang presence at school than Black students (38 percent) and Hispanic students (36 percent).
  • In 2007, 22 percent 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).
  • Ten percent of students ages 12–18 reported that someone at school had used hate-related words against them, and more than one-third (35 percent) reported seeing hate-related graffiti at school in 2007 (Indicator 10).
  • In 2007, 32 percent of students ages 12–18 reported having been bullied at school during the school year (Indicator 11). Twenty-one percent of students said that they had experienced bullying that consisted of being made fun of; 18 percent reported being the subject of rumors; 11 percent said that they were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; 6 percent said they were threatened with harm; 5 percent said they were excluded from activities on purpose; and 4 percent of students said they were tried to make do things they did not want to do or that their property was destroyed on purpose.
  • 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.
  • 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 2007, 36 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported they had been in a fight anywhere, and 12 percent said they had been in a fight on school property during the preceding 12 months (Indicator 13). In the same year, 44 percent of males said they had been in a fight anywhere, compared to 27 percent of females, and 16 percent of males said they had been in a fight on school property, compared to 9 percent of females.
  • Eighteen percent of students in grades 9–12 in 2007 reported they had carried a weapon10 anywhere, and 6 percent reported they had carried a weapon on school property during the previous 30 days (Indicator 14). There were at least three times as many males as females who reported carrying a weapon—either anywhere or on school property—in all survey years. In 2007, for example, 9 percent of males carried a weapon on school property, compared to 3 percent of females, and 29 percent of males carried a weapon anywhere, compared to 7 percent of females.
  • In 2007, 45 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).
  • Twenty percent of students in grades 9–12 in 2007 reported using marijuana anywhere during the past 30 days, and 4 percent reported using marijuana on school property during this period (Indicator 16).

Fear and Avoidance

  • In 2007, approximately 5 percent of students ages 12–18 reported that they were afraid of attack or harm at school, and 3 percent reported that they were afraid of attack or harm away from school (Indicator 17). In 2007, smaller percentages of White students (4 percent) and Asian students (2 percent) reported being afraid of attack or harm at school than their Black (9 percent) and Hispanic (7 percent) peers.
  • In 2007, 7 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: 3 percent of students avoided a school activity, and 6 percent avoided one or more places in school (Indicator 18).

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.
  • 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 majority of students ages 12–18 reported that their school had a student code of conduct (96 percent) and a requirement that visitors sign in (94 percent) in 2007 (Indicator 21). Metal detectors were the least commonly observed security measure. Ten percent of students reported the use of metal detectors at their school.

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 Indicator was revised on November 23, 2009.
10 Such as a gun, knife, or club.

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