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

Key Findings

In the 2007–08 school year, an estimated 55.7 million students were enrolled in prekindergarten through grade 12 (Snyder, Dillow, and Hoffman 2009). Preliminary data show that among youth ages 5–18, there were 43 school-associated violent deaths1 from July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008 (indicator 1). In 2007, among students ages 12–18, there were about 1.5 million victims of nonfatal crimes at school, 2 including 826,800 thefts3 and 684,100 violent crimes4 (simple assault and serious violent crime5) (indicator 2). During the 2007–08 school year, 85 percent of public schools recorded that at least one violent crime, theft, or other crime occurred at their school (indicator 6). The following section presents key findings from each section of the report.

Violent Deaths

  • From July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008, there were 21 homicides and 5 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 2.1 million students enrolled during the 2007–08 school year.

Nonfatal Student and Teacher Victimization

  • In 2007, students ages 12–18 were victims of about 1.5 million nonfatal crimes (theft3 plus violent crime4) while they were at school, compared to about 1.1 million nonfatal crimes while they were away from school (indicator 2).
  • In 2007, the rates for theft3 and violent crime4 were higher at school than away from school. In that year, students were victims of 31 thefts per 1,000 students at school, compared to 21 thefts per 1,000 students away from school. At school there were 26 violent crimes per 1,000 students, compared to 20 violent crimes per 1,000 students away from school (indicator 2).
  • Although there was an overall decline in the victimization rates for students ages 12–18 at school between 1992 and 2007, there was no measurable difference in the rate of crime at school between 2004 and 2007. Between 1992 and 2007 the rate of crime for students away from school declined (indicator 2).
  • In 2007, 4 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being victimized at school during the previous 6 months: 3 percent reported theft, 3 and 2 percent reported violent victimization4 (indicator 3). Less than half of a percent of students reported serious violent victimization. 5
  • 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).
  • During the 2007–08 school year, a greater percentage of teachers in city schools (10 percent) reported being threatened with injury than teachers in town schools (7 percent) and suburban or rural schools (6 percent each) (indicator 5). A greater percentage of teachers in city schools (5 percent) and suburban schools (4 percent) reported being physically attacked, compared to teachers in rural schools (3 percent)
  • A greater percentage of secondary school teachers (8 percent) reported being threatened with injury by a student than elementary school teachers (7 percent) (indicator 5). However, a greater percentage of elementary school teachers (6 percent) reported being physically attacked than secondary school teachers (2 percent).

School Environment

  • During the 2007–08 school year, 85 percent of public schools recorded that one or more incidents of crime had taken place at school, 2 amounting to an estimated 2.0 million crimes (table 6.1). This figure translates to a rate of 43 crimes per 1,000 public school students enrolled in 2007–08. During the same year, 62 percent of public schools reported an incident of crime that occurred at school to the police, amounting to about 704,000 crimes—or 15 crimes per 1,000 public school students enrolled (indicator 6).
  • In 2007–08, 75 percent of public schools recorded one or more violent incidents of crime, 4 17 percent recorded one or more serious violent incidents, 5 47 percent recorded one or more thefts, 3 and 67 percent recorded one or more other incidents. 7 Thirty-eight percent of public schools reported at least one violent incident to police, 13 percent reported at least one serious violent incident to police, 31 percent reported at least one theft to police, and 49 percent reported one or more other incidents to police (indicator 6).
  • 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. With regard to other discipline problems reported as occurring at least once a week, 6 percent of public 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 (indicator 7).
  • 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 that school year (indicator 7).
  • 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 2007–08, 34 percent of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that student misbehavior interfered with their teaching, and 32 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 89 percent reported that the principal enforced the school rules.
  • A higher percentage of secondary school teachers than elementary school teachers reported that student misbehavior (39 vs. 33 percent) and student tardiness and class cutting (45 vs. 26 percent) interfered with their teaching in 2007–08 (indicator 12). During the same year, a lower percentage of secondary school teachers than elementary school teachers agreed that school rules were enforced by teachers (56 vs. 79 percent) and by the principal in their school (86 vs. 89 percent).

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 weapon8 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-six percent of public schools (approximately 38,500 schools) took at least one serious disciplinary action against a student during the 2007–08 school year. Of the 767,900 serious disciplinary actions taken, 76 percent were suspensions for 5 days or more, 19 percent were transfers to specialized schools, and 5 percent were removals with no services for the remainder of the school year (indicator 19).
  • Although the overall percentage of public schools taking a serious disciplinary action declined between 1999–2000 (54 percent) and 2003–04 (46 percent), there has been no measurable change since then. This same general pattern of decline between the period of 1999–2000 and 2003–04 with no measurable change in more recent survey years held both for the percentage of public schools that reported taking serious disciplinary actions for the offense of physical attacks or fights and for the offense of insubordination (indicator 19).
  • Between the 1999–2000 and 2007–08 school years, there was an increase in the percentage of public schools reporting the use of the following safety and security measures: controlled access to the building during school hours (from 75 to 90 percent); controlled access to school grounds during school hours (from 34 to 43 percent); students required to wear badges or picture IDs (from 4 to 8 percent); faculty required to wear badges or picture IDs (from 25 to 58 percent); the use of one or more security cameras to monitor school (from 19 to 55 percent); the provision of telephones in most classrooms (from 45 to 72 percent); and the requirement that students wear uniforms (from 12 to 18 percent) (indicator 20).
  • Between the 2003–04 and 2007–08 school years, there was an increase in the percentage of public schools reporting the drug testing of student athletes (from 4 to 6 percent), as well as an increase in the percentage of public schools reporting the drug testing of students in other extracurricular activities (from 3 to 4 percent) (indicator 20).
  • During the 2007–08 school year, 43 percent of public schools reported that they had an electronic notification system for a school-wide emergency, and 31 percent of public schools reported that they had a structured, anonymous threat reporting system (indicator 20).
  • 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.

1 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.
2 See appendix B for a detailed definition of "at school."
3 Theft includes purse snatching, pick pocketing, all burglaries, attempted forcible entry, and all attempted and completed thefts except motor vehicle thefts. Theft does not include robbery in which threat or use of force is involved.
4 Violent crimes include serious violent incidents and simple assault.
5 Serious violent crimes include rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault.
6 "At school" includes inside the school building, on school property, or on the way to or from school.
7 Other incidents include possession of a firearm or explosive device; possession of a knife or sharp object; distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs or alcohol; and vandalism.
8 Such as a gun, knife, or club.

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