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Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2012
NCES 2013-036
2013

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 2011 (from 42 to 33 percent) and the percentage of students who reported being in a physical fight on school property also decreased during this period (from 16 to 12 percent).

Physical fights on school property are considered a high-risk behavior that may disrupt a focused learning environment at school; 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), as well as about their involvement in physical fights on school property, during the 12 months preceding the survey.32 In this indicator, fights occurring anywhere are used 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 33 percent in 2011. Similarly, the percentage of students who reported being in a physical fight on school property decreased from 16 percent in 1993 to 12 percent in 2011 (figure 13.1 and table 13.1). There was no measurable difference between the 2009 and 2011 percentages of students in grades 912 who reported being in a fight anywhere, nor was there a measurable difference between the 2009 and 2011 percentages of students in these grades who were in a fight on school property.

Students were also asked how often they were in physical fights during the past 12 months. In 2011, about 24 percent of students had been in a fight anywhere 1 to 3 times, 6 percent were in fights 4 to 11 times, and 3 percent were in fights 12 or more times (table 13.2). About 10 percent of students were in a fight on school property 1 to 3 times, 1 percent were in fights 4 to 11 times, and 1 percent were in fights 12 or more times.

From 1993 through 2011, the percentage of students in grades 912 who reported being in a physical fight anywhere and on school property decreased for all four grade levels (figure 13.1 and table 13.1). Generally, a higher percentage of students in 9th grade than in any other grade reported being in fights, either anywhere or on school property. For example, in 2011, about 38 percent of 9th-graders reported being in a fight anywhere, compared with 30 percent of 11th-graders and 27 percent of 12th-graders (there was no measurable difference in the percentages of 9th-graders and 10th-graders who reported being in a fight anywhere that year). Similarly, 16 percent of 9th-graders, compared with 13 percent of 10th- graders, and 9 percent each of 11th- and 12th-graders reported being in a fight on school property in 2011.

The percentage of students who reported being in a physical fight differed by race/ethnicity in 2011 (figure 13.2 and table 13.1). A smaller percentage of Asian students reported being in physical fights anywhere and on school property than other racial/ethnic groups. For example, 18 percent of Asian students reported being in a physical fight anywhere at least once during the previous 12 months, compared with 45 percent of students of two or more races, 43 percent of Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian students, 42 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students, 39 percent of Black students, 37 percent of Hispanic students, and 29 percent of White students. Six percent of Asian students reported being in a fight on school property at least once during the previous 12 months, compared with 21 percent of Pacific Islander/ Native Hawaiian students, 17 percent of students of two or more races, 16 percent of Black students, 14 percent of Hispanic students, 12 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 10 percent of White students. In addition, smaller percentages of White students reported being in fights anywhere and on school property than Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, or students of two or more races, and a smaller percentage of White students reported being in fights anywhere compared with American Indian/Alaska Natives.

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 anywhere twelve or more times in 2011, 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). For both males and females, there was no measurable difference in the percentages of students who reported being in a fight anywhere or on school property between 2009 and 2011.

Data for the percentage of public school students who reported being in a physical fight anywhere in 2011 were available for 42 states and the District of Columbia and data for fights on school property were available for 40 states and the District of Columbia. Among these states, the percentage of students who reported being in a fight anywhere ranged from 20 percent in Maine to 38 percent in the District of Columbia, while the percentage of students who reported being in a fight on school property ranged from 7 percent in Massachusetts and Nebraska to 16 percent in the District of Columbia and Louisiana (table 13.3).

This indicator has been updated to include 2011 data. For more information: table 13.1, 13.2, and 13.3, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012), (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6104.pdf).


32 The term "anywhere" is not used in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questionnaire; students are simply asked how many times in the last 12 months they had been in a physical fight. In the question that asks students about physical fights at school, "on school property" was not defined for survey respondents.


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