Indicators of School Crime and Safety is designed to provide an annual snapshot of specific crime and safety indicators, covering topics such as victimization, fights, bullying, classroom disorder, teacher injury, weapons, and student perceptions of school safety. In addition to covering a wide range of topics, the indicators are based on information drawn from a wide range of sources, including surveys of students, teachers, and principals, and data collections by federal departments and agencies such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Findings from this year's Indicators of School Crime and Safety show students ages 12-18 were victims of about 1.8 million nonfatal crimes of violence or theft at school in 2002, with the majority (62 percent) of all victimizations at school being thefts. However, this report is not only concerned with the safety of students at school. When available, data on crimes that occur outside of school grounds are offered as a point of comparison.1 In fact, as the data in this report show, a larger number of serious violent victimizations (that is, rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault) take place away from school than at school.
Preliminary data on homicides and suicides at school show there were 32 school-associated violent deaths in the United States between July 1, 1999, and June 30, 2000, including 24 homicides, 16 of which involved school-aged children. In each school year from 1992 to 2000, youth ages 5-19 were at least 70 times more likely to be murdered away from school than at school.
Trends in school crime over time are also of interest to researchers, educators, and families. No difference was detected in the percentages of students ages 12-18 victimized at school between 2001 and 2003. However, the percentage of students who reported being victims of crime at school decreased from 10 percent to 5 percent between 1995 and 2003. This included a decrease in theft (from 7 percent to 4 percent) and a decrease in violent victimization (from 3 percent to 1 percent) over the same time period.
Similarly, no differences were detected between 2001 and 2003 in the percentages of students ages 12-18 who reported being afraid of being attacked at school or on the way to and from school and the percentage of students who avoided one or more places in school. These percentages had declined from 1995 to 2001. The percentage of students in grades 9-12 who reported being in a fight during the previous 12 months on school property and the percentage of students who reported carrying a weapon such as a gun, knife, or club on school property within the previous 30 days also declined.
For some other types of crime at school, the frequency of these behaviors has shown no detectable pattern of increase or decrease over their respective survey periods. These include the number of homicides and suicides of school-aged youth at school between 1992 and 1999, the percentage of students in grades 9-12 who have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property between 1993 and 2003, and the percentage of teachers physically attacked by a student between 1993-94 and 1999-2000. No consistent patterns of increase or decrease were found in the percentage of students in grades 9-12 who used alcohol on school property between 1993 and 2003.
The percentage of students in grades 9-12 who reported using marijuana on school property increased between 1993 and 1995 and then generally declined between 1995 and 2003. Similarly, the percentage of students in grades 9-12 who reported that drugs were made available to them on school property increased from 1993 to 1995; however, no consistent patterns of increase or decrease were found in the percentage of students who had reported that drugs were made available to them between 1995 and 2003. The percentage of students ages 12-18 who reported that they had been bullied at school in the last 6 months increased between 1999 and 2001, although there was no measurable difference between 2001 and 2003.
Organization of This Report
This report, the seventh in a series of annual reports on school crime and safety from BJS and NCES, presents the latest available data on school crime and student safety. It is organized as a series of indicators, with each indicator presenting data on a different aspect of school crime and safety. The report provides updated data on nonfatal student victimization; nonfatal victimization of teachers; students' perceptions of personal safety; gangs; students' reports of being bullied, avoiding places, being called hate-related words, and seeing hate-related graffiti; and students' reports of being threatened or injured with a weapon, being in fights, carrying weapons at school, using alcohol and marijuana, and drug availability on school property. This year's report also includes data from last year's Indicators of School Crime and Safety on principal reports of selected crimes; principal reports of disciplinary problems and actions at school; and fatal student victimization.
This report is organized in five sections, starting with a description of the most serious violence: Violent Deaths at School; Nonfatal Student Victimization-Student Reports; Violence and Crime at School-Public School Reports; Nonfatal Teacher Victimization at School-Teacher Reports; and School Environment. Each section contains a set of indicators that, taken together, describe a distinct aspect of school crime and safety.
Rather than relying on data from a large omnibus survey of school crime and safety, this report uses a variety of independent data sources from federal departments and agencies, including BJS, NCES, the FBI, and the CDC. Each data source has an independent sample design, data collection method, and questionnaire design. By combining multiple and independent sources of data, this report aims to present a more complete portrait of school crime and safety than would be possible using any single source of information.
However, because the report relies on so many data sets, the age groups, time periods, and types of respondents analyzed can vary from indicator to indicator. Readers should keep these variations in mind when they compare data from different indicators. Readers should also note that trends in the data are discussed when possible.
Where trends are not discussed, either the data are not available in earlier surveys or survey question wording changed from year to year, eliminating the ability to discuss any trend. Furthermore, while every effort has been made to keep key definitions consistent across indicators, readers should always use caution in making comparisons between results from different data sets for several reasons: the data sets may contain definitional differences, such as those used for specific crimes and crimes that occur "at school," and respondent differences, such as examining students who report a victimization (at the individual level) and a school reporting one or more victimizations schoolwide. In addition, readers should always take into account the standard error of an estimate in making comparisons. Because most of the data in this report are from surveys that use a sample of the population, the standard error will inform the reader of the precision of differences between estimates. All the comparisons described in this report are statistically significant at the .05 level.
Appendix A of this report contains descriptions of all the data sets used in this report as well as a discussion of the calculation of standard errors for each.
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1 Data in this report are not adjusted by the number of hours that youth spend on school property and the number of hours they spend elsewhere.