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Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2009
NCES 2010-012
December 2009

Indicator 7: Discipline Problems Reported by Public Schools

During the 2007–08 school year, 25 percent of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students on a daily or weekly basis, 11 percent reported that student acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse took place on a daily or weekly basis, and 6 percent reported that student verbal abuse of teachers occurred on a daily or weekly basis.

In the School Survey on Crime and Safety, public school principals were asked how often certain disciplinary problems happen in their schools.30 This indicator examines the daily or weekly occurrence of student racial/ethnic tensions, bullying, sexual harassment of other students, verbal abuse of teachers, acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse, and widespread disorder in the classroom. It also looks at occurrences of gang and cult or extremist group activities, and, due to the severe nature of these incidents, presents any reports of gang and cult or extremist group activities that occurred during the school year.

During the 2007–08 school year, 25 percent of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students on a daily or weekly basis and 11 percent reported that student acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse took place on a daily or weekly basis (table 7.1). With regard to other discipline problems reported as occurring at least once a week, 6 percent of schools reported student verbal abuse of teachers, 4 percent reported widespread disorder in the classroom, 4 percent reported student racial/ethnic tensions, and 3 percent reported student sexual harassment of other students. Twenty percent of public schools reported that gang activities had happened at all during 2007–08 and 3 percent reported that cult or extremist activities had happened at all during this period.

Discipline problems reported by public schools varied by school characteristics. In 2007–08, a higher percentage of middle schools than primary schools reported various types of discipline problems (figure 7.1). For example, 44 percent of middle schools compared to 21 percent of primary schools reported that student bullying occurred at least once a week. Also, a higher percentage of middle schools than high schools reported daily or weekly occurrences of student bullying. A greater percentage of high schools than middle schools reported any occurrence of gang activities or cult or extremist group activities during the school year.

In 2007–08, the percentage of schools reporting discipline problems was generally smaller for schools where 25 percent or less of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch than for schools where 76 percent or more of the students were eligible. For example, 13 percent of schools where 76 percent or more 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 25 percent or less of the students were eligible. The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs is a proxy measure of school poverty.

In 2007–08, a greater percentage of city schools than suburban schools, town schools, or rural schools reported student verbal abuse of teachers, student acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse, widespread disorder in the classroom, and gang activities. For example, 8 percent of city schools compared to 2 to 3 percent of suburban, town, or rural schools reported widespread disorder in the classroom. During the same school year, in general, the percentage of schools reporting discipline problems was higher in larger schools than in smaller schools. For example, 52 percent of schools with 1,000 or more students reported that gang activities occurred during the school year compared to 10 to 22 percent of schools with less than 1,000 students who reported this discipline problem.

The percentage of schools reporting that student verbal abuse of teachers occurred at least once a week was 6 percent in 2007–08, lower than the percentage in 1999–2000 (13 percent). There were some measurable changes in the percentage of public schools reporting selected discipline problems between the two most recent data collections, 2005–06 and 2007–08. A smaller percentage of public schools reported cult or extremist activities in 2007–08 (3 percent) than in 2005–06 (4 percent). However, a larger percentage of public schools reported widespread disorder in the classroom in 2007–08 than in 2005–06 (4 vs. 2 percent), and a larger percentage reported gang activities in 2007–08 than in 2005–06 (20 vs. 17 percent).

This indicator has been updated to include 2007–08 data. For more information: Tables 7.1 and 7.2, and Neiman and DeVoe (2009)

30 "At school" was defined for respondents to include activities that happen in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at places that hold school-sponsored events or activities. Respondents were instructed to include incidents that occurred before, during, or after normal school hours or when school activities or events were in session.

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