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Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education

Violent and Other Criminal Incidents Recorded by Public Schools and Those Reported to the Police

(Last Updated: July 2020)
This indicator also appears under School Crime and Safety.

In 2017–18, about 71 percent of public schools recorded one or more violent incidents, 21 percent recorded one or more serious violent incidents, and 33 percent recorded one or more thefts.

Between 1999–2000 and 2009–10, as well as in 2015–16 and 2017–18, the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) asked public school principals to provide the number of violent incidents,1 serious violent incidents,2 thefts of items valued at $10 or greater without personal confrontation, and other criminal incidents3 that occurred at their school.4 Public school principals were also asked to provide the number of such incidents they reported to the police. This indicator presents the percentage of public schools that recorded one or more of these specified incidents, the total number of incidents recorded, and the rate of incidents per 1,000 students. These data are also presented for incidents that were reported to the police.

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Figure 1. Percentage of public schools recording incidents of violence, theft, and other crimes at school, percentage reporting these incidents to the police, and rate of these incidents per 1,000 students, by type of incident: School year 2017–18
Figure 1. Percentage of public schools recording incidents of violence, theft, and other crimes at school, percentage reporting these incidents to the police, and rate of these incidents per 1,000 students, by type of incident: School year 2017–18

1 “Violent incidents” include “serious violent” incidents (see footnote 2) as well as physical attacks or fights without a weapon and threat of physical attacks without a weapon.

2 “Serious violent” incidents include rape, sexual assault other than rape, physical attacks or fights with a weapon, threat of physical attacks with a weapon, and robbery with or without a weapon.

3 Theft or larceny is taking things worth over $10 without personal confrontation.

4 “Other incidents” include possession of a firearm or explosive device; possession of a knife or sharp object; distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs or alcohol; inappropriate distribution, possession, or use of prescription drugs; and vandalism.

NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school. “At school” was defined as including activities that happen in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at places that hold school-sponsored events or activities. Respondents were instructed to include incidents that occurred before, during, and after normal school hours or when school activities or events were in session. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding and because schools that recorded or reported more than one type of crime incident were counted only once in the total percentage of schools recording or reporting incidents.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2018. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, tables 229.10 and 229.20.

Figure 2. Percentage of public schools recording incidents of violence, theft, and other crimes at school and percentage reporting these incidents to the police, by school level: School year 2017–18
Figure 2. Percentage of public schools recording incidents of violence, theft, and other crimes at school and percentage reporting these incidents to the police, by school level: School year 2017–18

1 “Violent incidents” include “serious violent” incidents (see footnote 2) as well as physical attacks or fights without a weapon and threat of physical attacks without a weapon.

2 “Serious violent” incidents include rape, sexual assault other than rape, physical attacks or fights with a weapon, threat of physical attacks with a weapon, and robbery with or without a weapon.

3 Theft or larceny is taking things worth over $10 without personal confrontation.

4 “Other incidents” include possession of a firearm or explosive device; possession of a knife or sharp object; distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs or alcohol; inappropriate distribution, possession, or use of prescription drugs; and vandalism.

NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school. “At school” was defined as including activities that happen in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at places that hold school-sponsored events or activities. Respondents were instructed to include incidents that occurred before, during, and after normal school hours or when school activities or events were in session. Primary 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. Combined schools include all other combinations of grades, including K–12 schools.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2018. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, tables 229.30 and 229.40.

Figure 3. Percentage of public schools recording and reporting to the police violent and serious violent incidents, by number of incidents: School year 2017–18
Figure 3. Percentage of public schools recording and reporting to the police violent and serious violent incidents, by number of incidents: School year 2017–18

1 “Violent incidents” include “serious violent” incidents (see footnote 2) as well as physical attacks or fights without a weapon and threat of physical attacks without a weapon.

2 “Serious violent” incidents include rape, sexual assault other than rape, physical attacks or fights with a weapon, threat of physical attacks with a weapon, and robbery with or without a weapon.

NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school. “At school” was defined for respondents as including activities that happen in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at places that hold school- sponsored events or activities. Respondents were instructed to include incidents that occurred before, during, or after normal school hours or when school activities or events were in session. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2018. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, tables 229.50 and 229.60.


1 “Violent incidents” include serious violent incidents (see footnote 2) as well as physical attacks or fights without a weapon and threat of physical attacks without a weapon.

2 “Serious violent incidents” include rape, sexual assault other than rape, physical attacks or fights with a weapon, threat of physical attacks with a weapon, and robbery with or without a weapon.

3 “Other incidents” include possession of a firearm or explosive device; possession of a knife or sharp object; distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs or alcohol; inappropriate distribution, possession, or use of prescription drugs; and vandalism.

4 “At school” was defined for respondents as including activities that happen in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at places that hold school-sponsored events or activities. Respondents were instructed to include incidents that occurred before, during, or after normal school hours or when school activities or events were in session.

5 The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) programs is a proxy measure of school poverty. For more information on eligibility for FRPL and its relationship to poverty, see the NCES blog post “Free or reduced price lunch: A proxy for poverty?

Supplemental Information

Table 229.10 (Digest 2019): Percentage of public schools recording incidents of crime at school, percentage reporting incidents of crime at school to police, and number of incidents recorded or reported, by type of crime: Selected years, 1999-2000 through 2017-18;
Table 229.20 (Digest 2019): Rate of crime incidents at school per 1,000 students recorded by public schools and reported to police by public schools, by school level, percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and type of crime: Selected years, 1999-2000 through 2017-18;
Table 229.30 (Digest 2019): Percentage of public schools recording incidents of crime at school, number of incidents, and rate per 1,000 students, by type of crime and selected school characteristics: 2017-18;
Table 229.40 (Digest 2019): Percentage of public schools reporting incidents of crime at school to the police, number of incidents, and rate per 1,000 students, by type of crime and selected school characteristics: 2017-18;
Table 229.50 (Digest 2019): Percentage distribution of public schools, by number of violent incidents of crime at school recorded and reported to the police and selected school characteristics: 2017-18;
Table 229.60 (Digest 2019): Percentage distribution of public schools, by number of serious violent incidents of crime at school recorded and reported to the police and selected school characteristics: 2017-18
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Previous versions of this indicator available in the Indicators of School Crime and Safety reports.
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