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

Key Findings

In the 2008–09 school year, an estimated 55.6 million students were enrolled in prekindergarten through grade 12 (Snyder and Dillow 2010). Preliminary data show that among youth ages 5–18, there were 38 school-associated violent deaths1 from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009 (Indicator 1). In 2008, among students ages 12–18, there were about 1.2 million victims of nonfatal crimes at school,2 including 619,000 thefts3 and 629,800 violent crimes4 (simple assault and serious violent crime5) (Indicator 2). In 2009, 8 percent of students reported being threatened or injured with a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club, on school property (Indicator 4). The following section presents key findings from each section of the report.


Violent Deaths

  • Of the 38 student, staff, and nonstudent school associated violent deaths1 occurring between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, 24 were homicides, and 14 were suicides. From July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009, there were 15 homicides and 7 suicides of school-age youth (ages 5–18) at school (Indicator 1).
  • During the school year 2007–08, there were 1,701 homicides among school-age youth ages 5–18. During the 2007 calendar year, there were 1,231 suicides of youth ages 5–18 (Indicator 1).

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Nonfatal Student and Teacher Victimization

  • In 2008, students ages 12 to 18 were victims of about 1.2 million nonfatal crimes (theft3 plus violent crime4) at school,2 compared to about 1 million nonfatal crimes away from school (Indicator 2).
  • The total at-school crime and theft victimization rates of students ages 12 to 18 declined between 2007 and 2008. The total crime victimization rate of students ages 12 to 18 at school declined from 57 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2007 to 47 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2008 (Indicator 2).
  • The rates for serious violent crimes5 were lower at school than away from school in 2008. In 2008, students ages 12 to 18 were victims of 4 serious violent crimes per 1,000 students at school and 8 serious violent crimes per 1,000 students away from school (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
  • Eight percent of students in grades 9–12 reported being threatened or injured with a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club, on school property6 in 2009. Specifically, 3 percent of students were threatened or injured with a weapon one time, 2 percent were threatened or injured with a weapon two or three times, 1 percent were threatened or injured with a weapon four to eleven times, and 1 percent were threatened or injured with a weapon twelve or more times7 (Indicator 4).
  • In 2009, 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).  
  • 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).

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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,8 and 67 percent recorded one or more other incidents.9 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).
  • The percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported that drugs were offered, sold, or given to them decreased from 32 percent in 1995 to 23 percent in 2009 (Indicator 9).
  • In 2009 in grades 9–12, higher percentages of American Indian/Alaska Native students (34 percent) and Hispanic students (31 percent) than Black students (22 percent), White students (20 percent), and Asian students (18 percent) reported that drugs were made available to them on school property. In addition, smaller percentages of Asian students and White students than of students of two or more races (27 percent) reported that drugs were made available to them on school property (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 each said that someone tried to make them 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 percent vs. 33 percent) and student tardiness and class cutting (45 percent 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 percent vs. 79 percent) and by the principal in their school (86 percent vs. 89 percent).

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Fights, Weapons, and Illegal Substances

  • In 2009, 31 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported they had been in a physical fight at least one time during the previous 12 months anywhere, and 11 percent said they had been in a fight on school property during the previous 12 months.6 Generally, a higher percentage of students in 9th grade reported having been in fights than students in any other grade, both anywhere and on school property. Generally, a smaller percentage of Asian students reported being in physical fights anywhere and on school property than students of other racial/ethnic groups. In addition, 4 percent of males said they had been in a fight anywhere twelve or more times, compared to 1 percent of females, and 1 percent of males said they had been in a fight on school property twelve or more times, compared to less than half a percent of females (Indicator 13).
  • Between 1993 and 2009, the percentage of students who reported carrying a weapon at least one day anywhere during the past 30 days declined from 22 percent to 17 percent, and the percentage who reported carrying a weapon at least one day on school property also declined, from 12 percent to 6 percent (Indicator 14).
  • In 2009, 27 percent of males carried a weapon anywhere, compared to 7 percent of females, and 8 percent of males carried a weapon on school property, compared to 3 percent of females (Indicator 14).
  •  In 2009, about 42 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported having at least one drink of alcohol anywhere in the past 30 days, while 4 percent had at least one drink on school property (Indicator 15).
  • Since 2003, there has been no measurable difference between the percentages of male and female students in grades 9–12 who reported alcohol consumption anywhere. However, there were differences in the reporting of how often alcohol was consumed in 2009. For example, a higher percentage of females than males reported consuming alcohol either one or two days out of the previous 30 days in 2009 (23 percent vs. 18 percent). In addition, a higher percentage of males than females reported consuming alcohol from three to twenty-nine days (22 percent vs. 19 percent). One percent of male students reported consuming alcohol anywhere all thirty days (figure 15.2 and table 15.3). In terms of alcohol use on school property, males reported using alcohol at least one time during the previous 30 days at a greater percentage than did females in every survey year (Indicator 15).
  • In 2009, 21 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported using marijuana anywhere in the past 30 days, while 5 percent reported using marijuana on school property. According to students’ reports, male students were twice as likely as females to use marijuana on school property (6 percent vs. 3 percent, respectively). Six percent of male students reported using marijuana anywhere 40 times or more during the previous 30 days, compared to 2 percent of females. One percent of males reported using marijuana on school property 40 times or more, compared to less than one-half percent of females (Indicator 16).
  • Generally among 9th–12th-graders, the percentage of Asian students reporting using marijuana anywhere and on school property during the previous 30 days was smaller than that of most other racial/ethnic groups. In addition, the percentage of students reporting using marijuana anywhere increased with grade level: a smaller percentage of 9th-graders reported using marijuana anywhere (16 percent), than 10th-graders (21 percent), 11th-graders (23 percent), and 12th-graders (25 percent) (Indicator 16).

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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).

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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 percent to 90 percent); controlled access to school grounds during school hours (from 34 percent to 43 percent); students required to wear badges or picture IDs  (from 4 percent to 8 percent); faculty required to wear badges or picture IDs (from 25 percent to 58 percent); the use of one or more security cameras to monitor school (from 19 percent to 55 percent); the provision of telephones in most classrooms (from 45 percent to 72 percent); and the requirement that students wear uniforms (from 12 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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.

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1 School-associated violent death is defined as "a homicide, suicide, or legal intervention (involving a law enforcement officer), 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 "At school" includes inside the school building, on school property, or on the way to or from 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 "On school property" was not defined for survey respondents.
7 Subtotals do not add to total due to rounding.
8 Theft/larceny includes taking things worth over $10 without personal confrontation. Please see appendix B for a more detailed definition.
9 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.

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