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The data for this indicator describe the educational status of a cohort based on a nationally representative probability sample of 15,362 10th-graders in 752 public, Catholic, and other private schools, who were studied in the spring term of the 2001–02 school year. The base-year data collection for the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) is the first wave of a new longitudinal study of high school students that continues a series of nationally representative longitudinal studies conducted by the United States Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) over recent decades.
Are schools providing a safe haven in which learning can occur? This indicator addresses the question by looking at the 10th-grade cohort’s perceptions of their own safety in school, observations of safety-related problems (e.g., gang activities), and experiences of various forms of crime and bullying on school property. In 2002, a majority of 10th-graders (88 percent) perceived their school as a safe place. However, this means that about 12 percent of 10th graders reported that they did not feel safe at school (figure 1).
In 2002, 66 percent of 10th graders reported having experienced at least one of these eight forms of crime, threat, or violence at least once or twice during the first semester/term of the school year (figure 2). Theft was the most commonly reported crime: 41 percent of 10th graders reported that something was stolen from them at school at least once or twice during the first semester/term of the school year. In addition to theft, some students experienced more serious negative events that involved direct confrontation with the perpetrators. One out of four 10th graders reported that someone at school offered to sell them drugs (25 percent) or threatened to hurt them (24 percent). One out of five 10th graders reported that someone at school hit them (21 percent) or bullied or picked on them (20 percent). About 15 percent of 10th graders reported that their belongings were purposely damaged or destroyed by someone at school, and 14 percent said that they were engaged in a physical fight with someone on school property. About 3 percent of 10th graders were victims of someone using strong-arm or forceful methods to get money or possessions from them at school.
Students’ perceptions of school rules were linked to their perceptions of their own safety in school (figure 3). Students felt safer at school when they perceived that their school rules were clearly communicated, fair, and strictly enforced and that the consequences for breaking the rules were made clear and applied equally to everyone.