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FOR RELEASE: March 19, 1998

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley today called for heightened efforts to address discipline and violence in schools and cited data from the first in a series of reports to be released detailing the problem.

According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics, Violence and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-97, 43 percent of elementary and secondary school principals reported no incidents of crime in their schools. Forty-seven percent reported incidents such as theft/larceny, vandalism, physical attacks and/or fights without a weapon; ten percent reported one or more serious violent crimes, such as rape or sexual battery, suicide, robbery, physical attacks or fights with a weapon.

This survey is the first of five reports on school safety and violence prevention efforts to be released within the next year. They serve as precursors to a national report President Clinton has requested on the overall state of school safety.

"This report presents the first hard look at recent statistics telling us how much violence occurs in our nation's schools," said U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. "Although I am troubled by the number of crimes occurring and believe that even one incident of violence in our schools is too many, overall most of our schools remain safe havens for the majority of American children. Ninety percent of our schools are free of serious violent crime and we need to aggressively help the ten percent that are confronting real problems."

Thirty-seven percent of schools reported from one to five crimes and 20 percent reported six crimes or more. According to the survey, less serious crimes were more common than serious violent crimes. Physical attacks or fights without a weapon led the list of reported crimes, with about 190,000 such incidents reported to police in 1996-97, followed by 116,000 incidents of theft or larceny, and 98,000 acts of vandalism. With serious violent crimes, the survey showed that schools reported about 4,000 incidents of rape or other type of sexual battery, 7,000 robberies, and 11,000 incidents of physical attacks or fights with weapons.

"This study underscores the need for efforts to be tough minded when dealing with young people who are truly violent," said Riley. "At the same time we need to remember that some children can just get disconnected and lose their way. We need to continue efforts to reduce crime and discipline problems in schools.

Smaller schools, schools-within-schools, strong conflict resolution programs, zero tolerance programs, increased school uniform policies and more after school learning centers are all positive steps being taken to address the needs of local communities. The President's request for $200 million to expand after-school programs as safe havens of learning would help tens of thousands of students keep on the right track."

The survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 1,234 public elementary, middle and secondary schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Principals were asked to provide information about incidents of crime and violence that were serious enough for the police or other law enforcement representatives to have been contacted. They were asked to report only on incidents occurring both during or after school hours in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at school-sponsored events or activities held in places other than school grounds or school property.

Other survey findings include:

Copies of Violence and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-97 can be obtained by downloading it from the website

Link To:
Violence and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-97 (Report)
Statement by Pascal D. Forgione, Jr., Ph.D on Violence and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-97 (Commissioner's Remarks)