The prevalence of crime in America’s public schools continues to be a topic of much concern and discussion among parents, students, educators, and policymakers. A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides the latest data to help inform conversations and debate about school safety.
The report, Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools, presents new information from the 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS). SSOCS is a nationally representative survey of school principals that collects detailed information on both incidents of crime in U.S. public schools and the practices and programs schools have implemented to promote school safety.
This report presents selected findings on a wide range of topics, including violent and nonviolent incidents, disciplinary problems and actions, security measures, security staff, mental health services, and limitations on crime prevention. In addition to presenting updates for data that have been published in prior SSOCS reports, the new report highlights topics not covered in previous reports, including the number of incidents involving the use or possession of a firearm or explosive device at school as well as the percentage of schools that have “panic buttons” or silent alarms that directly connect to law enforcement in the event of an incident.
Data on both school crime incidents and school safety practices are available by various school characteristics, such as school type, enrollment size, and locale (i.e., whether the school is located in an urban, suburban, or rural area).
One key finding highlighted in the report is that most schools have written plans for various emergency scenarios. In school year 2017–18, the most common types of plans reported were for responses to natural disasters (94 percent), active shooters (92 percent), and bomb threats or incidents (91 percent).
The report also presented other key findings from the 2017–18 school year:
- Seventy-one percent of U.S. public schools reported that at least one violent incident occurred at school during the school year.
- Three percent of schools reported that there was at least one incident involving the possession of a firearm or explosive device at their school.
- Forty-six percent of traditional public schools had a school resource officer present at school at least once a week, compared with only 19 percent of charter schools. Conversely, a higher percentage of charter schools than of traditional public schools had a security guard or other security personnel present at least once a week (35 vs. 21 percent).
- Restorative circles were used more frequently in schools with a higher enrollment of minority students. A restorative circle is a formal mediation process led by a facilitator who brings affected parties of a problem together to explore what happened, reflect on their roles, and find solutions that address individual and community concerns. Among schools with at least 50 percent minority enrollment, half (50 percent) reported involving students in restorative circles. However, in schools with lower minority enrollment (20 to 50 percent), a lower percentage of schools reported involving students in restorative circles (38 percent).
- Fifty-one percent of schools provided diagnostic mental health assessments to evaluate students for mental health disorders, and 38 percent provided treatment to students for mental health disorders.
To access the full report, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2019/2019061.pdf. SSOCS:2018 data files will be released later this year. Due to the sensitive nature of SSOCS data, researchers must apply for a restricted-use license to access the full SSOCS:2018 restricted-use data file. A public-use data file—with some sensitive variables removed—will be released after the restricted-use data file.
By Sam Correa and Melissa Diliberti (AIR) and Rachel Hansen (NCES)