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Students' Reports of School Crime: 1989 and 1995

Introduction and Background

This report is the first focusing on data collected in the 1995 School Crime Supplement (SCS), an enhancement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The NCVS is an ongoing household survey that gathers information on the criminal victimization of household members age 12 and older. While this report does not cover all of the items in the dataset, it covers those pertinent to school crime. These include: victimization at school, drug availability at school, street gangs at school, and guns at school. In this report, victimization is in terms of prevalence as opposed to counts of events. In other words, the report focuses on the percent of students who have been victimized one or more times.

To put the 1995 estimates in context, data from the 1989 SCS are also presented. Key findings include:

  • There was little or no change in the percent of students reporting any (violent or property) victimization at school (14.5 percent versus 14.6 percent), or the percent of students reporting property victimization at school (12.2 percent versus 11.6 percent) between 1989 and 1995 (table 1). However, there was an increase in the percent of students reporting violent victimization at school (3.4 percent versus 4.2 percent) between the two years.
  • In 1989, most students, 63.2 percent, reported that marijuana, cocaine, crack, or uppers/downers were available at school (either easy or hard to obtain; table 2). This number increased somewhat to 65.3 percent in 1995.
  • The percent of students reporting street gang presence at school nearly doubled between 1989 and 1995, increasing from 15.3 percent to 28.4 percent (table 4).
  • In 1995, a series of questions was asked about guns at school.1 Almost no students reported taking a gun to school (less than one half of one percent), 5.3 percent reported seeing another student with a gun at school, and 12.7 percent reported knowing another student who brought a gun to school.

The supplements were fielded in January through June of their respective years to nationally representative samples of approximately 10,000 students. Eligible respondents to the supplements had to be between the ages of 12 and 19, and had to have attended school at some point during the six months preceding the interview. Respondents were only asked about crimes that had occurred at school during the six months prior to the interview. "At school" was defined as in the school building, on school grounds, or on a school bus.

Readers should be aware that the 1989 SCS estimates on victimization at school shown in this report do not match the estimates presented in the first analysis of the 1989 SCS.2 In both the 1989 and 1995 SCS collections, persons 12 to 19 years of age were asked to respond to the NCVS and the SCS, and victimization information was captured in both questionnaires. The earlier authors elected to use the victimization information reported in the NCVS, rather than the SCS, in the development of their estimates. Because of a redesign of the NCVS in 1992, the 1995 victimization estimates from the NCVS cannot readily be compared to those developed before 1993.3 Therefore, the authors of this report elected to reanalyze the 1989 data to compare estimates of victimization in 1995 to 1989 using the SCS data in both cases. Undoubtedly, the redesign of the NCVS also had implications on responses to the SCS. Unfortunately, it is not possible to measure the extent of the impact. (More information about the redesign and a comparison of SCS versus NCVS estimates of victimization can be found in the methodology section of this report.)

This report presents estimates for two points in time, six years apart. Readers should not assume that the time points represent a stable trend between 1989 and 1995. In fact, if estimates had been developed for the intervening years, many changes might be seen.

In this report, each topic is covered in a two- or three-page presentation that consists of bullets and figures. Comprehensive tables on each of the topics can be found after the body of the report. A methodology section, which describes the data collections and the analysis approach, follows the tables. Shown in appendix A are tables containing standard errors of the estimates, and shown in appendix B are the 1989 and 1995 School Crime Supplement questionnaires.

Again, this report does not exhaustively cover all of the data available in the 1989 and 1995 data sets. Readers can obtain the 1989 SCS data through the National Archive of Criminal Justice web site at http://www.icpsr/umich/edu/NACJD/ (study number 9394), and the 1995 SCS data will soon be made available through the same source. A SCS, jointly developed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), will continue to be fielded as a supplement to the NCVS every few years.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] A similar series of questions was not included in 1989.

[2] See L. Bastian and B. Taylor. School Crime: A National Crime Victimization Survey Report, NCJ-131645 (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC: 1991).

[3] C. Kindermann, J. Lynch, and D. Cantor. Effects of the Redesign on Victimization Estimates, NCJ-164381 (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC: 1997).


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education