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Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 1998

School Environment

The presence of deadly weapons at school can create an intimidating and threatening atmosphere, making teaching and learning difficult. The percentages of students who report that they carry a weapon or a gun to school is an indicator of how widespread the problem of weapons at school is.

 

  • There was a decline between 1993 and 1996 in the percentage of male high school seniors who reported carrying a weapon to school at least 1 day within the 4 weeks before the survey-the percentage fell from 14 percent in 1993 to 9 percent in 1996 (figure 11.1 and table 11.1). However, there was little change in the percentage of female students who reported carrying a weapon to school during this period (from 2 to 3 percent).

  • About 3 percent of high school seniors reported carrying a gun to school at least 1 day during the 4-week period preceding the survey (figure 11.1 and table 11.1). This percentage remained fairly stable from 1994 to 1996.

  • Among high school seniors in 1996, males were about 3 times more likely to report carrying a weapon to school and over 20 times more likely to report carrying a gun to school than were their female counterparts (figure 11.1 and table 11.1).

  • Eight percent of white 9th through 12th graders carried a weapon to school in 1997 (figure 11.2 and table 11.2). Between 1993 and 1997, the percentage of black 9th through 12th grade students who reported carrying a weapon to school at least 1 day within 30 days before the survey fell from 15 percent to 9 percent (a 40 percent reduction).
Figure 11.1

Figure 11.2

 

Chapter 2 One consequence of school violence is the fear that it can instill in students. Students who fear for their own safety may not be able or ready to learn. Concerns about vulnerability to attacks by others at school and on the way to and from school may also have a detrimental effect on the school environment and learning.

 

  • Between 1989 and 1995, there were increases in the percentages of students feeling unsafe while they were at school and while they were going to and from school (figures 12.1 and 12.2 and table 12.1). In 1989, 6 percent of students ages 12 through 19 sometimes or most of the time feared they were going to be attacked or harmed at school, while in 1995 this percentage rose to 9 percent. Between these years, the percentage of students fearing they would be attacked while traveling to and from school rose from 4 percent to 7 percent.

  • In 1989 and 1995, larger percentages of black and Hispanic students than white students feared attacks at school and when traveling to and from school (figures 12.1 and 12.2 and table 12.1).

  • Much of the increase between 1989 and 1995 in the percentage of students ages 12 through 19 fearing for their own safety at school came from an increase in the percentage of black students who did so (figure 12.1 and table 12.1). In 1995, this percentage was 13 percent, nearly double the percentage in 1989 (7 percent).

  • Examining student perceptions by location indicates that there was a large increase between 1989 and 1995 in the percentage of suburban black students who feared being attacked when traveling to and from school (figure 12.3 and table 12.1). The percentage of suburban black students ages 12 through 19 fearing attacks increased almost threefold - from 6 percent to 16 percent.

 

One consequence of crime at school is that students begin to perceive specific areas at school as unsafe. In order to try to ensure their own safety, they begin to avoid these areas. Changes in the percentage of students avoiding areas at school may be a good barometer of how safe schools are - at least in the minds of those who attend these schools

 

  • Between 1989 and 1995, there was an increase in the percentage of students ages 12 through 19 who avoided one or more places at school - from 5 percent in 1989 to 9 percent in 1995 (figure 13.1 and table 13.1). This percentage represented 2.1 million students in 1995 who reported avoiding some areas at school for fear of their own safety.

  • The percentage of black students avoiding specific areas at school rose from 7 percent in 1989 to 12 percent in 1995, and for Hispanic students it rose from 7 percent in 1989 to 13 percent in 1995 (figure 13.1 and table 13.1). The percentage of white students avoiding areas at school rose from 5 percent to 7 percent.

  • In suburban areas in 1989, there were no significant differences in the percentages of white, black, and Hispanic students who avoided one or more places at school (figure 13.2 and table 13.1). However, in 1995, black and Hispanic students in suburban areas were much more likely than suburban white students to stay away from some places at school.
Figure 13.1

Figure 13.2

 

Gangs are organized groups that are often involved in drugs, weapons trafficking, and criminal activities. The presence of gangs in school can be very disruptive to the school environment. Gangs may not only create fear among students but also increase the level of violence in school. The percentage of students who report the presence of street gangs in their schools indicates the existence and severity of the gang problem in schools.

  • Between 1989 and 1995, the percentage of students who reported that street gangs were present at their schools increased (figure 14.1 and table 14.1). In 1989, 15 percent of students reported gangs being present in their schools. By 1995, this percentage had risen to 28 percent.

  • Gangs were more likely to exist in public schools than in private schools (figure 14.1 and table 14.1). In 1989, 17 percent of students in public schools reported that street gangs were present in their schools compared with 4 percent in private schools. Similar results were reported in 1995. However, between these two years, the percentage of public school students reporting that gangs were present in their schools almost doubled (from 17 percent in 1989 to 31 percent in 1995) as has the percentage of private school students reporting gang presence (from 4 percent to 7 percent).

  • In 1995, urban students were more likely to report that there were street gangs at their schools (41 percent) than were suburban students (26 percent) or rural students (20 percent) (figure 14.2 and table 14.1). Similar results occurred in 1989. Between 1989 and 1995, reports of gang presence increased in all three categories of students' place of residence.

  • In both years, black students were more likely than white students to report the existence of street gangs in their schools, and Hispanic students were more likely than either white or black students to do so (table 14.1). Between 1989 and 1995, reports of gang presence increased for whites, blacks, and Hispanics.

Figure 14.1

Figure 14.2

 

Discipline problems in a school may contribute to an overall climate in which violence may occur. Schools that suffer from student drug or alcohol use, racial tensions, or verbal and physical abuse of teachers may be filled with pressures that result in school violence

 


  • During the 1996-97 school year, 16 percent of all public school principals reported that one or more discipline issues had been a serious problem in their school4 (figure 15.1 and table 15.1). About the same percentage of principals in city, urban fringe, town, and rural settings reported one or more serious discipline problems.

  • Public elementary schools were the least likely to report any serious discipline issues, followed by middle schools and then high schools (figure 15.1 and table 15.1). About 8 percent of elementary school principals reported one or more of these issues as a serious problem, while 18 percent of principals in middle schools and 37 percent of those in high schools did so.

  • While overall there were no significant differences in reported serious problems by urbanicity, a greater percentage of principals in public city high schools than in rural high schools reported having serious discipline problems - 47 percent compared with 28 percent (figure 15.1 and table 15.1).

Figure 15.1

 

The presence of alcohol on school grounds, while a crime in itself, may lead to other crimes and misbehavior. The consumption of alcohol may lead to a school environment that is harmful to students, teachers, and staff.

 


  • Although 12th graders were less likely to use alcohol at school than at home or at parties, in 1996 about 8 percent of 12th graders had consumed alcohol at school (figure 16.1 and table 16.1). The percentage of 12th graders who had used alcohol at school in the past 12 months declined over the last two decades - falling from 12 percent in 1976 to 8 percent in 1996.

  • For both males and females, rates of drinking alcohol at school fell between 1976 and 1996 (figure 16.2 and table 16.1). During this period, the rates for drinking at school fell more sharply among males than among females. However, in 1996, male 12th graders were more likely than their female counterparts to have had at least one drink at school in the past year.

Figure 16.1

Figure 16.2

 

The presence of alcohol on school grounds, while a crime in itself, may lead to other crimes and misbehavior. The consumption of alcohol may lead to a school environment that is harmful to students, teachers, and staff.

 


  • The percentage of 12th graders who had taken various illegal drugs at school in the previous 12 months declined between 1976 and 1992. Marijuana was the illegal drug (other than alcohol) that was most likely to be used at school (figure 17.1 and table 17.1).

  • Use of drugs other than marijuana and stimulants is relatively low at school. With the exception of marijuana, stimulants were used more often than other illegal drugs in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but 12th graders in the 1990s were about as likely to use stimulants at school as other illegal drugs (figure 17.2 and table 17.1).

  • Between 1976 and 1992, marijuana use and use of stimulants at school declined among 12th graders (figures 17.1 and 17.2 and table 17.1). In the case of marijuana, use fell from 21 percent in 1976 to 5 percent in 1992.

  • Since 1992, use of marijuana and stimulants at school has increased among 12th graders (figures 17.1 and 17.2 and table 17.1). In 1997, about 10 percent had used marijuana at school in the past 12 months, while about 4 percent had used stimulants.

  • Over the last two decades, marijuana use by 12th graders at parties has been consistently higher than at school (figure 17.1 and tables 17.1 and 17.2). Since the late 1980s, marijuana use at home has also been higher than at school. The increase in marijuana use in the 1990s at home and at parties was also more severe than the increase for marijuana use at school.

Figure 17.1

Figure 17.2

 


FOOTNOTE:

[4] These issues were student tardiness, student absenteeism/class cutting, physical conflicts among students, robbery or theft of items worth over $10, vandalism of school property, student alcohol use, student drug use, sale of drugs on school grounds, student tobacco use, student possession of weapons, trespassing, verbal abuse of teachers, physical abuse of teachers, teacher absenteeism, teacher alcohol or drug use, racial tensions, and gangs. Back


  NCES Help Page Nonfatal Teacher Victimization at School-Teacher Reports Table of Contents List of Tables Appendix A. School Practices and Policies Related to Safety and Discipline

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