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Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2010
NCES 2011-002
November 2010

Indicator 13: Physical Fights on School Property and Anywhere

The percentage of students in grades 9 through 12 who reported being in a physical fight anywhere decreased between 1993 and 2009, from 42 to 31 percent; this was also true for the percentage of students who reported being in a physical fight on school property, this percentage decreased from 16 to 11 percent.

Physical fights on school property are considered a high-risk behavior that may disrupt a focused learning environment at school; and students involved in physical fights on school property may face difficulties succeeding in their studies (Payne, Gottfredson, and Gottfredson 2003). In the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, students in grades 912 were asked about their general involvement in physical fights (referred to as "anywhere" in this indicator) during the preceding 12 months, as well as about their involvement in physical fights on school property.31 Fights occurring anywhere are included as a point of comparison with fights occurring on school property. Overall, the percentage of students who reported being in a physical fight anywhere decreased from 42 percent in 1993 to 31 percent in 2009. Similarly, the percentage of students who reported being in a physical fight on school property decreased between 1993 and 2009, from 16 to 11 percent (figure 13.1 and table 13.1). Between the two most recent survey years, 2007 and 2009, the percentage of students in grades 912 who reported being in a fight anywhere decreased from 36 to 31 percent, but there was no measurable difference between these two survey years in the percentage of students who reported being in a fight on school property.

Students were also asked how often they were in physical fights during the past year. In 2009, 24 percent reported being in a fight one to three times, 5 percent were in a fight four to eleven times, and 3 percent were in a fight twelve or more times. Ten percent of students reported being in a fight on school property one to three times, 1 percent were in a fight on school property four to eleven times, and less than 1 percent were in a fight on school property twelve or more times (table 13.2).

From 1993 through 2009, the percentage of students who reported being in a physical fight anywhere and on school property decreased for all four grade levels (grades 9 through 12) (figure 13.1 and table 13.1). Generally, a higher percentage of students in 9th grade reported being in fights than students in any other grade, both anywhere and on school property. For example, in 2009, 37 percent of 9th-graders, compared to 33 percent of 10th-graders, 29 percent of 11th-graders, and 25 percent of 12th-graders reported being in a fight anywhere. Similarly, 15 percent of 9th-graders, compared to 12 percent of 10th-graders, 10 percent of 11th-graders, and 7 percent of 12th-graders reported being in a fight on school property in 2009. A smaller percentage of 12th-graders were involved in physical fights anywhere and on school property than any other grade.

The percentage of students who reported being in a physical fight differed by race/ethnicity in 2009 (figure 13.2 and table 13.1). Generally, a smaller percentage of Asian students reported being in physical fights anywhere and on school property than other racial/ethnic groups. In addition, smaller percentages of White students reported being in fights anywhere and on school property than Black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native students. For example, 19 percent of Asian students reported being in a physical fight anywhere at least once during the previous 12 months, compared to 28 percent of White students, 36 percent of Hispanic students, 41 percent of Black students, and 42 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students. Eight percent of Asian students reported being in a fight on school property at least once during the previous 12 months, compared to 14 percent of Hispanic students, 17 percent of Black students, and 21 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students.

For both males and females, the percentage of students who reported being in a fight anywhere was lower in 2009 than in 2007 (39 percent compared to 44 percent for males, and 23 percent compared to 27 percent for females). While the percentage of students who reported being in fights on school property in 2009 was lower than in 2007 for females (7 percent compared to 9 percent), there was no measurable difference in the percentage who reported being in fights on school property for males. A greater percentage of males than females reported being in a higher number of physical fights both anywhere and on school property. For example, 4 percent of males reported being in a fight twelve or more times in 2009, compared to 1 percent of females. One percent of males reported being in a fight on school property twelve or more times, compared to less than half a percent of females (figure 13.3 and table 13.2).

Data for 2009 were available for 41 states. Among these states, the percentage of students who reported being in a fight anywhere ranged from 23 percent in Maine to 37 percent in New Mexico, while the percentage of students reporting being in a fight on school property ranged from 7 percent in North Dakota to 15 percent in Arkansas and New Mexico (table 13.3).

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31 "On school property" was not defined for survey respondents.

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