Skip Navigation
Click to open navigation

Indicator 7: Discipline Problems Reported by Public Schools
(Last Updated: May 2016)

The percentage of public schools that reported student bullying occurred at least once a week decreased from 29 percent in 1999–2000 to 16 percent in 2013–14.

Between 1999–2000 and 2009–10, the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) asked public school principals how often certain disciplinary problems happened in their schools36 during the school years in which this survey was administered. More recently, in 2013–14, school principals were asked to provide responses to a similar set of questions on the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) survey of school safety and discipline. This indicator examines whether the following discipline problems were reported by public schools at least once a week: student racial/ ethnic tensions, student bullying, student sexual harassment of other students, student harassment of other students based on sexual orientation or gender identity, student verbal abuse of teachers, student acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse, and widespread disorder in the classroom. In the 2009–10 SSOCS survey administration, schools were also asked to report selected types of cyber-bullying37 problems at school or away from school that occurred at least once a week.

In 2013–14, about 16 percent of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students at least once a week (figure 7.1 and table 7.1). About 5 percent of public schools reported verbal abuse of teachers, 9 percent reported acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse, and 2 percent reported widespread disorder in the classroom. About 1 percent of public schools reported each of the following occurred at least once a week in 2013–14: Student racial/ethnic tensions, sexual harassment of other students, and harassment of other students based on sexual orientation or gender identity.


Figure 7.1. Percentage of public schools reporting selected discipline problems that occurred at school at least once a week: School years 1999–2000, 2009–10, and  2013–14

Figure 7.1. Percentage of public schools reporting selected discipline problems that occurred at school at least once a week: School years 1999–2000, 2009–10, and  2013–14

1 Data for 1999–2000 are not available.
NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school. "At school" was defined to include 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 respond only for those times that were during normal school hours or when school activities or events were in session, unless the survey specified otherwise. Data for 2013–14 were collected using the Fast Response Survey System, while data for earlier years were collected using the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS). The 2013–14 survey was designed to allow comparisons with SSOCS data. However, respondents to the 2013–14 survey could choose either to complete the survey on paper (and mail it back) or to complete the survey online, whereas respondents to SSOCS did not have the option of completing the survey online. The 2013–14 survey also relied on a smaller sample. The smaller sample size and change in survey administration may have impacted 2013–14 results.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1999–2000 and 2009–10 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2000 and 2010; Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), "School Safety and Discipline: 2013–14," FRSS 106, 2014.


The percentage of public schools that reported student bullying occurred at least once a week decreased from 29 percent in 1999–2000 to 16 percent in 2013–14 (figure 7.1 and table 7.1). Similarly, the percentage of schools that reported the occurrence of student verbal abuse of teachers at least once a week decreased from 13 percent in 1999–2000 to 5 percent in 2013–14. The percentages of public schools that reported the occurrence of student racial/ethnic tensions was lower in 2013–14 than in most prior survey years. For example, 3 percent of schools reported student racial/ethnic tensions in 1999–2000, compared to 1 percent of schools in 2013–14.

The percentage of public schools reporting student sexual harassment of other students at least once a week was lower in 2013–14 (1 percent) than in every prior survey year since data collection began in 2003–04 (table 7.1). The percentage of public schools reporting student harassment of other students based on sexual orientation or gender identity was lower in 2013–14 (1 percent) than in 2009–10 (3 percent), the first year data on this item were collected.

There was no measurable difference in the percentage of schools that reported widespread disorder in the classroom in 1999–2000 and 2013–14 (figure 7.1 and table 7.1). Similarly, there was no measurable difference in the percentage of schools reporting student acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse in 2007–08 (the first year of data collection for this item) and 2013–14.

During the 2013–14 school year, the most commonly reported discipline problem among public schools was student bullying. The percentage of public schools that reported student bullying occurred at least once a week was higher for middle schools (25 percent) than high schools and combined elementary/secondary schools (referred to as high/ combined schools) (17 percent), and the percentages for both of these school levels were higher than the percentage for primary schools (12 percent; figure 7.2 and table 7.1). A higher percentage of schools with enrollments of 1,000 or more reported student bullying (22 percent) than schools of any other enrollment size. A higher percentage of schools located in towns (24 percent) reported bullying as compared to schools located in suburbs (13 percent), cities (15 percent), and rural areas (15 percent). A lower percentage of schools where 25 percent or less of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch reported student bullying (8 percent) than schools with any other percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.38


Figure 7.2. Percentage of public schools reporting student bullying occurred at school at least once a week, by selected school characteristics: School year 2013–14

Figure 7.2. Percentage of public schools reporting student bullying occurred at school at least once a week, by selected school characteristics: School year 2013–14

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
1 Percent combined enrollment of Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native students.
NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school. "At school" was defined to include 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 respond only for those times that were during normal school hours or when school activities or events were in session, unless the survey specified otherwise. High school/combined refers to high schools and combined elementary/secondary schools. Because the 2013–14 survey did not collect data on the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, the classification of schools by the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch was computed based on data obtained from the Common Core of Data.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), "School Safety and Discipline: 2013–14," FRSS 106, 2014; and Common Core of Data (CCD), "Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey," 2013–14.


In 2009–10, the SSOCS included a questionnaire item on cyber-bullying in which public schools were asked to report the occurrence of cyber-bullying among students at school and away from school. Eight percent of public schools reported that cyber- bullying had occurred among students daily or at least once a week at school or away from school. Four percent of public schools also reported that the school environment was affected by cyber-bullying. Similarly, 4 percent of schools reported that staff resources were used to deal with cyber-bullying (figure 7.3 and table 7.2).


Figure 7.3. Percentage of public schools reporting selected types of cyber-bullying problems occurring at school or away from school at least once a week, by school level: School year 2009–10

Figure 7.3. Percentage of public schools reporting selected types of cyber-bullying problems occurring at school or away from school at least once a week, by school level: School year 2009–10

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the CV is 50 percent or greater.
1 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 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 12. Combined schools include all other combinations of grades, including K–12 schools.
NOTE: Includes schools reporting that cyber-bullying happens either "daily" or "at least once a week." "Cyber-bullying" was defined for respondents as occurring "when willful and repeated harm is inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices." Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school. Respondents were instructed to include cyber-bullying "problems that can occur anywhere (both at your school and away from school)."
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2009–10 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2010.


Public schools' reports on the occurrence of cyber- bullying at school and away from school in 2009–10 varied by school characteristics (table 7.2). Primary schools reported lower percentages of cyber-bullying among students (2 percent) than middle schools (19 percent), high schools (18 percent), and combined schools (13 percent). Thirteen percent of schools with less than 5 percent combined enrollment of minority students (defined as Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, or American Indian/Alaska Native students) reported cyber-bullying among students, compared with 5 percent of schools with 50 percent or more combined enrollment of these racial/ethnic groups.


This indicator repeats information from the Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2015 report. For more information: Tables 7.1 and 7.2, Neiman (2011), (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2011320), and Gray and Lewis (2015), (http://nces. ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2015051).


36 "At school" was defined for respondents to include 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 respond only for those times that were during normal school hours or when school activities or events were in session, unless the survey specified otherwise.
37 "Cyber-bullying" was defined for respondents as "occurring when willful and repeated harm is inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices."
38 The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs is a proxy measure of school poverty.