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National Center for Education Statistics

New Report on Crime and Safety in Schools and College Campuses

Crime in the nation’s schools and college campuses has declined overall during the past two decades, according to a report released on April 17, 2019. Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2018 highlights new information on a wide array of data points, including youth opioid use, perceptions of bullying, and active shooter incidents in educational settings. The report also covers topics such as victimization, school conditions, school environment, safety and security measures at school, and criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions.

In 2017, students ages 12–18 experienced 827,000 total victimizations (i.e., theft and nonfatal violent victimization) at school and 503,800 total victimizations away from school. These figures represent a rate of 33 victimizations per 1,000 students at school, compared to 20 victimizations per 1,000 students away from school. From 1992 to 2017, the total victimization rate and rates of specific crimes—thefts, violent victimizations, and serious violent victimizations—declined for students ages 12–18, both at school and away from school.

This edition of Indicators of School Crime and Safety includes an analysis of active shooter incidents, which represent a small subset of the possible violent incidents that occur at schools. While rare, these events are of high concern to all those interested in the safety of our nation’s students. From 2000 to 2017, there were 37 active shooter incidents at elementary and secondary schools and 15 active shooter incidents at postsecondary institutions. During this period, there were 153 casualties (67 killed and 86 wounded) in active shooter incidents at elementary and secondary schools, and 143 casualties (70 killed and 73 wounded) in active shooter incidents at postsecondary institutions.

Between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, the most recent period available, there were 18 homicides of school-age youth (ages 5–18) at a school out of the 1,478 homicides of school-age youth in the United States. During the same period, 3 of the 1,941 total suicides of school-age youth occurred at school.

In 2017, about 20 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year. Between 2005 and 2017, the percentage of students who reported being bullied at school declined overall and for most of the student and school characteristics examined.

 



 

Of the students who were bullied in 2017, about 56 percent felt that those who had bullied them had the ability to influence what other students thought of them. A higher percentage of female students (62 percent) than male students (48 percent) reported that those who bullied them had the ability to influence what other students thought of them.

 



 

The new report included a special analysis that shows that the percentage of 8th-graders who reported using heroin during the past 12 months decreased from 1.4 percent in 1995 to 0.3 percent in 2017. The percentage also decreased from 1.1 to 0.2 percent for 10th-graders and from 1.1 to 0.4 percent for 12th-graders during the same period. This 0.4 percent of 12th graders reflects 15,900 students, who were recent users of heroin. The use of OxyContin and Vicodin during the past 12 months also generally decreased for 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders between 2005 (the first year of data collection for these survey items) and 2017.

 



 

There were also decreases for other types of substance abuse. The percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using alcohol at least once during the previous 30 days decreased from 47 to 30 percent between 2001 and 2017. Also, the percentage of students in grades 9–12 reporting marijuana use at least 1 time during the previous 30 days in 2017 (20 percent) was lower than the percentage for 2001 (24 percent).

Other findings – elementary and secondary schools

  • About 99 percent of students ages 12–18 reported that they observed the use of at least one of the selected safety and security measures at their schools in 2017. The three most commonly observed safety and security measures were a written code of student conduct (95 percent), a requirement that visitors sign in and wear visitor badges or stickers (90 percent), and the presence of school staff (other than security guards or assigned police officers) or other adults supervising the hallway (88 percent).
  • About 6 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being called hate-related words at school during the school year in 2017, representing a decrease from 12 percent in 2001. This percentage also decreased between 2001 and 2017 for male and female students as well as for White, Black, and Hispanic students.
  • The percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere in the previous 12 months decreased between 2001 and 2017 (from 33 to 24 percent), as did the percentage of students in these grades who reported having been in a physical fight on school property (from 13 to 9 percent).

 



 

Other findings – postsecondary Institutions

  • The number of on-campus crimes reported in 2016 was lower than the number reported in 2001 for every category except forcible sex offenses and negligent manslaughter offenses. The number of reported forcible sex crimes on campus increased from 2,200 in 2001 to 8,900 in 2016 (a 305 percent increase).
  • Race, religion, and sexual orientation were the categories of motivating bias most frequently associated with the 1,070 hate crimes reported on college campuses in 2016.

To view the full report, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2019047.

New Data Available on Prevalence of Recognized Student Acceptance Groups

Schools can help to foster students’ understanding of diversity and create environments where students feel safe and welcome. One way to do this is by organizing student groups whose purpose is to promote acceptance of other students. The School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) collected data on the presence of recognized student acceptance groups during the 2015–16 school year from a nationally representative sample of 3,500 K–12 public schools. The questionnaire asked whether schools had student groups that promote acceptance of students’ sexual orientations[i] and gender identities,[ii] of students with disabilities, and of cultural diversity.

Among all public schools, groups that promote acceptance of students with disabilities were most common. Some 27 percent of schools reported having a student group that promotes acceptance of students with disabilities during the 2015­–16 school year, compared with 21 percent that reported having a student group that promotes acceptance of cultural diversity and 12 percent that reported having a student group that promotes acceptance of students’ sexual orientations and gender identities.


Figure 1. Percentage of public schools reporting the presence of recognized student acceptance groups, by school level and purpose of student group: School year 2015–16

1Primary schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not higher than grade 3 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 8. Middle schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not lower than grade 4 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 9. High schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not lower than grade 9 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 12. The total also includes combined schools. Combined schools are schools that have a combination of grades that cannot be categorized as primary, middle, or high schools, including K–12 schools. 
2Sexual orientation was defined for respondents as one’s emotional or physical attraction to the same and/or opposite sex. Gender identity was defined for respondents as one’s inner sense of one’s own gender, which may or may not match the sex assigned at birth. Different people choose to express their gender identity differently. For some, gender may be expressed through, for example, dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social interactions. Gender expression usually ranges between masculine and feminine, and some transgender people express their gender consistent with how they identify internally, rather than in accordance with the sex they were assigned at birth. An example of a student group to promote acceptance of students' sexual orientations and gender identities provided to respondents was a Gay-Straight Alliance.
3An example of a student group to promote acceptance of students with disabilities provided to respondents was Best Buddies.
4An example of a student group to promote acceptance of cultural diversity provided to respondents was a Cultural Awareness Club.
NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about school crime and policies to provide a safe environment. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. 
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 2015–16 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2016. See table 37.


All three types of acceptance groups were more common in high schools than in middle or primary schools. The most common type of student acceptance group varied by school level. For example, among middle schools, the percentage of schools that reported having a student group that promotes acceptance of students with disabilities (32 percent) was higher than the percentage that reported having a student group that promotes acceptance of cultural diversity (22 percent) or acceptance of students’ sexual orientations and gender identities (12 percent). This pattern was similar for primary schools. Among high schools, the percentage of schools that reported having a student group that promotes acceptance of students’ sexual orientations and gender identities (50 percent) was higher than the percentage that reported having a student group that promotes acceptance of students with disabilities (45 percent).

During the 2015–16 school year, all three types of student acceptance groups were more commonly found in schools in cities and suburbs than in schools in rural areas. For example, 30 percent of schools in cities and 26 percent of schools in suburbs reported having a student group that promotes acceptance of cultural diversity, compared with 10 percent of schools in rural areas.


Figure 2. Percentage of public schools reporting the presence of recognized student acceptance groups, by purpose of student group and school locale: School year 2015–16

1Sexual orientation was defined for respondents as one's emotional or physical attraction to the same and/or opposite sex. Gender identity was defined for respondents as one's inner sense of one's own gender, which may or may not match the sex assigned at birth. Different people choose to express their gender identity differently. For some, gender may be expressed through, for example, dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social interactions. Gender expression usually ranges between masculine and feminine, and some transgender people express their gender consistent with how they identify internally, rather than in accordance with the sex they were assigned at birth. An example of a student group to promote acceptance of students' sexual orientations and gender identities provided to respondents was a Gay-Straight Alliance.
2An example of a student group to promote acceptance of students with disabilities provided to respondents was Best Buddies.
3An example of a student group to promote acceptance of cultural diversity provided to respondents was a Cultural Awareness Club.
NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about school crime and policies to provide a safe environment.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 2015–16 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2016. See table 37.


You can find more information on school crime and safety in NCES publications, including Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2015–16 and the 2017 Indicators of School Crime and Safety.

 

By Rachel Hansen, NCES, and Melissa Diliberti, AIR


[i]Sexual orientation was defined for respondents as one’s emotional or physical attraction to the same and/or opposite sex.

[ii]Gender identity was defined for respondents as one’s inner sense of one’s own gender, which may or may not match the sex assigned at birth. Different people choose to express their gender identity differently. For some, gender may be expressed through, for example, dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social interactions. Gender expression usually ranges between masculine and feminine, and some transgender people express their gender consistent with how they identify internally, rather than in accordance with the sex they were assigned at birth.

What Are Threat Assessment Teams and How Prevalent Are They in Public Schools?

As part of the Safe School Initiative, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Secret Service authored a report in 2004 that described how schools could establish a threat assessment process “for identifying, assessing, and managing students who may pose a threat of targeted violence in schools.” School-based threat assessment teams are intended to prevent and reduce school violence and are adapted from the U.S. Secret Service’s threat assessment model.

The School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) collected data on the prevalence of threat assessment teams in schools for the first time in 2015–16 from a nationally representative sample of 3,500 K–12 public schools. The questionnaire defined a threat assessment team as “a formalized group of persons who meet on a regular basis with the common purpose of identifying, assessing, and managing students who may pose a threat of targeted violence in schools.” School-based threat assessment teams are usually composed of some combination of school administrators, teachers, counselors, sworn law enforcement officers, and mental health professionals.

While 42 percent of all public schools reported having a threat assessment team during the 2015–16 school year, the prevalence of threat assessment teams varied by school characteristics.


Percentage of public schools that reported having a threat assessment team, by school level and enrollment size: School year 2015–16

1Primary schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not higher than grade 3 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 8. Middle schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not lower than grade 4 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 9. High schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not lower than grade 9 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 12. Combined schools include all other combinations of grades, including K–12 schools.
NOTE: A threat assessment team was defined for respondents as a formalized group of persons who meet on a regular basis with the common purpose of identifying, assessing, and managing students who may pose a threat of targeted violence in schools. Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about school crime and policies to provide a safe environment. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2016. See table 35.


For example, a higher percentage of high schools (52 percent) than of middle (45 percent), primary (39 percent), and combined schools (28 percent) reported having a threat assessment team during the 2015–16 school year. Further, 57 percent of schools with an enrollment size of 1,000 or more students reported having a threat assessment team, compared with 31 percent of schools with an enrollment size of less than 300 students; 40 percent of schools with an enrollment size of 300–499 students; and 45 percent of schools with an enrollment size of 500–999 students.

Threat assessment teams were also more prevalent in schools that had at least one security staff[i] member present at school at least once a week during the 2015–16 school year (48 percent of schools with security staff present vs. 33 percent of schools without security staff present). The percentage of schools reporting a threat assessment team was also higher in schools that reported at least one violent incident[ii] had occurred at school during the 2015–16 school year (44 percent) compared with schools that had no violent incidents (35 percent).

How often a threat assessment team meets can be an indication of how active the team is in the school.  The majority of schools with a threat assessment team in 2015–16 reported that their teams met “on occasion” (62 percent), followed by “at least once a month” (27 percent), “at least once a week” (9 percent), and “never” (2 percent).


Among public schools that reported having a threat assessment team, percentage distribution by frequency of threat assessment team meetings: School year 2015–16

!Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
NOTE: A threat assessment team was defined for respondents as a formalized group of persons who meet on a regular basis with the common purpose of identifying, assessing, and managing students who may pose a threat of targeted violence in schools. Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about school crime and policies to provide a safe environment.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2016. See table 35.


You can find more information on school crime and safety in NCES publications, including Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2015–16 and the 2017 Indicators of School Crime and Safety.

 

By Rachel Hansen, NCES and Melissa Diliberti, AIR

 

[i] Security staff includes full- or part-time school resource officers, sworn law enforcement officers, or security guards or security personnel present at school at least once a week.

[ii] Violent incidents include rape or attempted rape, sexual assault other than rape (including threatened rape), physical attack or fight with or without a weapon, threat of physical attack with or without a weapon, and robbery (taking things by force) with or without a weapon.

 

Explore Data on Mental Health Services in K–12 Public Schools for Mental Health Awareness Month

It’s important for schools to help ensure students are safe and healthy, both physically and mentally, so that learning can occur. In addition to implementing security measures on school campuses, there has been a growing focus on whether schools provide mental health services. In school year 2015–16, some 71 percent of public schools reported having diagnostic assessments for mental health disorders available to students, and 64 percent of schools reported having treatment available. [i]

These data come from the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS). The 2015–16 SSOCS questionnaire added new questions asking principals to report whether diagnostic assessment and treatment services for mental health were available to students under the official responsibilities of a licensed mental health professional.[ii] Diagnostic assessments are used to identify whether a student has one or more medical and/or mental health diagnoses. Treatment is a clinical service, such as psychotherapy, medication, or counseling, which is intended to lessen or eliminate the symptoms of a disorder.

The prevalence of mental health services varied by school characteristics. In both middle and high schools, diagnostic assessment services were more common than treatment services: 74 percent of middle schools and 79 percent of high schools reported diagnostic assessments were available, compared with 66 percent of middle schools and 69 percent of high schools reporting treatment services were available. Compared to primary schools, a higher percentage of high schools reported that both types of mental health services were available.


Figure 1. Percentage of public schools reporting the availability of mental health services under the official responsibilities of a licensed mental health professional, by type of mental health service and school enrollment size: School year 2015–16

1Mental health disorders were defined for respondents as, collectively, all diagnosable mental disorders or health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.
NOTE: Mental health services are provided by several different types of mental health professionals, each of which have their own training and areas of expertise. The types of professionals who may provide mental health services include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners, psychiatric/mental health nurses, clinical social workers, and professional counselors. Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about school crime and policies to provide a safe environment.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2016. See table 40.


The percentage of schools with 1,000 or more students that reported having diagnostic assessment services available (80 percent) was higher than the percentages of schools with fewer than 300 students (69 percent), 300–499 students (68 percent), and 500–999 students (71 percent).

The questionnaire also asked principals to report to what extent certain factors limited the school’s efforts to provide mental health services to students. The most common limiting factors reported by schools were inadequate funding (75 percent) and lack of parental support (71 percent).


Figure 2. Percentage of public schools reporting that their efforts to provide mental health services to students were limited in a major or minor way due to specified non-school-level factors: School year 2015–16

1Mental health disorders were defined for respondents as, collectively, all diagnosable mental disorders or health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.
2Mental health services are provided by several different types of mental health professionals, each of which have their own training and areas of expertise. The types of professionals who may provide mental health services include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners, psychiatric/mental health nurses, clinical social workers, and professional counselors. 
3Examples of legal issues provided to respondents were malpractice and insufficient supervision.
NOTE: Respondents were asked to rate the level of limitation in their school’s efforts to provide mental health services to students for each factor. Survey response options included “limits in major way,” “limits in minor way,” or “does not limit." Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about school crime and policies to provide a safe environment.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2016. See table 39.


You can find more information on school crime and safety in NCES publications, including Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2015–16 and the 2017 Indicators of School Crime and Safety.

 

By Rachel Hansen, NCES and Melissa Diliberti, AIR

 

 

[i] Includes services available at school by a mental health professional employed by the school or district; services available at school by a mental health professional other than a school or district employee, funded by the school or district; and services available outside of school by a mental health professional other than a school or district employee, funded by the school or district.

[ii] The 2015–16 questionnaire provided formal definitions for many terms, including at school, diagnostic assessment, mental health disorders, mental health professionals, and treatment.

 

 

Data on New Topics in the School Survey on Crime and Safety Shed Light on Emerging Areas of Interest

By Rachel Hansen, NCES; and Melissa Diliberti and Jana Kemp, AIR

For more than 15 years, the National Center for Education Statistics has administered the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) to provide timely, high-quality data on crime and safety in U.S. public schools. Information collected on SSOCS includes the frequency and nature of crime; disciplinary actions; crime prevention and the involvement of law enforcement; and challenges to reducing and preventing crime. Conducted with a nationally representative sample of public schools, the sixth, and most recent, administration of SSOCS took place during the 2015–16 school year. The first report highlighting key findings from that survey was released in 2017.

For the 2015–16 survey, we included new and expanded questions on several topics to address emerging policy issues and to identify common practices in school safety, including:

  • School law enforcement, including questions on how schools involve sworn law enforcement officers in daily activities and whether schools outline the responsibilities of these officers at school. For instance, one new item asks whether law enforcement officers routinely wear a body camera, while another item asks if the school has a formalized policy defining officers’ use of firearms while at school;
  • Preventative measures used in public schools, including new questions on more recent security practices. For example, one new item asks schools to report whether they have a threat assessment team to identity students who might be a potential risk for violent or harmful behavior;
  • Preparations for crisis situations, such as whether schools drill students on the use of evacuation, lockdown, and shelter-in-place procedures. Other new items ask whether schools have panic buttons that directly connect to law enforcement and whether they have classroom doors that can be locked from the inside;
  • Student involvement in crime prevention, such as whether schools use peer mediation, student court, restorative circles, or social emotional learning training for students as part of a formal program intended to prevent or reduce violence; and
  • Staff training in discipline policies and practices, including those related to bullying and cyberbullying or strategies for students displaying signs of mental health disorders.

While previous administrations of SSOCS have asked schools to report the number of hate crimes that occurred during a given school year, the 2015–16 questionnaire asked schools to also report the bias (e.g., national origin or ethnicity, gender identity, etc.) that may have motivated these hate crimes. For the first time, the SSOCS questionnaire also asked schools to report the number of arrests that occurred at school.

In addition to these new and expanded questions, SSOCS continues to collect detailed information on schools’ safety practices, the number and type of crime incidents (e.g., sexual assault, physical attack or fight) that occur at school, and the extent to which schools involve law enforcement, parents, and other community groups in their efforts to reduce and prevent crime. To allow for trend comparisons, many items included on SSOCS questionnaires have remained consistent between survey administrations.

Due to the sensitive nature of SSOCS data, researchers must apply for a restricted-use license to access the SSOCS:2016 restricted-use data file. A public-use data file, with some variables removed, was released in March of 2018. Public-use data files from previous SSOCS administrations are also available on the SSOCS website and in DataLab