Skip Navigation
Click to open navigation

Indicator 12: Physical Fights on School Property and Anywhere
(Last Updated: April 2019)

The percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere 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).

In the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), students in grades 9–12 were asked about their involvement in physical fights, both in general (referred to as “anywhere” in this indicator) and on school property, during the 12 months preceding the survey.58 In this indicator, percentages of students reporting involvement in a physical fight occurring anywhere are used as a point of comparison with percentages of students reporting involvement in a physical fight occurring on school property.

Overall, the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere during the previous 12 months decreased between 2001 and 2017 (from 33 to 24 percent), and the percentage of students who reported having been in a physical fight on school property also decreased during this period (from 13 to 9 percent; figure 12.1 and table 12.1). However, there were no measurable differences between the two most recent survey years (2015 and 2017) in the percentage of students who reported having been in a physical fight, both anywhere and on school property.


Figure 12.1. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight at least one time during the previous 12 months, by location and sex: Selected years, 2001 through 2017

Figure 12.1. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight at least one time during the previous 12 months, by location and sex: Selected years, 2001 through 2017

NOTE: The term “anywhere” is not used in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questionnaire; students were simply asked how many times in the past 12 months they had been in a physical fight. In the question asking students about physical fights at school, “on school property” was not defined for survey respondents.
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2001 through 2017.


In every survey year from 2001 to 2017, a higher percentage of male students than of female students in grades 9–12 reported having been in a physical fight during the previous 12 months, both anywhere and on school property. In 2017, for example, 30 percent of male students, compared with 17 percent of female students, reported having been in a physical fight anywhere; 12 percent of male students, compared with 6 percent of female students, reported having been in a physical fight on school property.

Similar to the pattern for students overall, the percentages of both male and female students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight, both anywhere and on school property, during the previous 12 months also decreased between 2001 and 2017. During this time, the percentage of students who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere decreased from 43 to 30 percent for male students and from 24 to 17 percent for female students. Similarly, the percentage of students who reported having been in a physical fight on school property decreased from 18 to 12 percent for male students and from 7 to 6 percent for female students.

The percentages of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight, both anywhere and on school property, during the previous 12 months differed by race/ethnicity. For example, in 2017, the percentage of students who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere was higher for Black students (33 percent) than for Hispanic students (26 percent), students of Two or more races (26 percent), Pacific Islander students (23 percent), and White students (21 percent); and the percentage for Asian students (11 percent) was lower compared with all these groups (figure 12.2 and table 12.1). In addition, the percentages of students who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere were higher for American Indian/Alaska Native students (35 percent) and Hispanic students than for White students. Of students who reported having been in a physical fight on school property, the percentages were higher for those who were Black (15 percent), Pacific Islander (14 percent), and Hispanic (9 percent) than for those who were White (6 percent); and the percentage for Asian students (4 percent) was lower compared with all these groups. In addition, the percentage of students who reported having been in a physical fight on school property was higher for Black students than for Hispanic students and students of Two or more races (9 percent).


Figure 12.2. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight at least one time during the previous 12 months, by location and race/ethnicity: 2017

Figure 12.2. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight at least one time during the previous 12 months, by location and race/ethnicity: 2017

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. The term “anywhere” is not used in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questionnaire; students were simply asked how many times in the past 12 months they had been in a physical fight. In the question asking students about physical fights at school, “on school property” was not defined for survey respondents.
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2017.


Between 2001 and 2017, the percentages of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere decreased for White students (from 32 to 21 percent), Hispanic students (from 36 to 26 percent), Asian students (from 22 to 11 percent), and students of Two or more races (from 40 percent to 26 percent), but there were no measurable differences between these two years for Black students and American Indian/Alaska Native students. Similarly, during the same period, the percentages of students who reported having been in a physical fight on school property decreased for White students (from 11 to 6 percent), Hispanic students (from 14 to 9 percent), Asian students (from 11 to 4 percent), and students of Two or more races (from 15 to 9 percent), and there were no measurable differences between these two years for Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander students.

Since 2015, the YRBS has included a question to identify students’ sexual orientation by asking students in grades 9–12 which of the following best described them—“heterosexual (straight),” “gay or lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “not sure.”59 In 2017, a higher percentage of gay, lesbian, or bisexual students (28 percent) reported having been in a physical fight anywhere during the previous 12 months than did heterosexual students (23 percent) or students who were not sure about their sexual orientation (20 percent; table 12.1). There were no measurable differences by sexual orientation in the percentages of students who reported having been involved in a physical fight on school property.

In 2017, the percentages of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere during the previous 12 months were higher for 9th-graders (28 percent) and 10th-graders (26 percent) than for 11th-graders (20 percent) and 12th-graders (18 percent). Similarly, higher percentages of 9th-graders (12 percent) and 10th-graders (10 percent) than 11th-graders (6 percent) and 12th-graders (5 percent) reported having been in a physical fight on school property in 2017. In addition, the percentage of students who reported having been in a physical fight on school property was higher for 9th-graders than for 10th-graders.

Students in grades 9–12 were also asked how many times they had been in a physical fight, both anywhere and on school property, during the previous 12 months. In 2017, about 18 percent of students in these grades reported having been in a physical fight anywhere 1 to 3 times, 4 percent reported having been in a physical fight anywhere 4 to 11 times, and 2 percent reported having been in a physical fight anywhere 12 or more times (figure 12.3 and table 12.2). When students in these grades were asked about physical fights on school property, 7 percent reported having been in a physical fight on school property 1 to 3 times and 1 percent each reported having been in a physical fight on school property 4 to 11 times and 12 or more times.


Figure 12.3. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight during the previous 12 months, by number of times and location: 2017

Figure 12.3. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight during the previous 12 months, by number of times and location: 2017

NOTE: The term “anywhere” is not used in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questionnaire; students were simply asked how many times in the past 12 months they had been in a physical fight. In the question asking students about physical fights at school, “on school property” was not defined for survey respondents. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2017.


Data for the percentage of public school students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere in 2017 were available for 36 states and the District of Columbia.60 Among these jurisdictions, the percentages of students who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere ranged from 15 percent in Maine to 31 percent in Louisiana and the District of Columbia (table 12.3). In 2017, data for physical fights on school property involving these students were available for 32 states and the District of Columbia. Among these jurisdictions, the percentages of students who reported having been in a physical fight on school property ranged from 5 percent in Kansas and Maine to 15 percent in the District of Columbia.


This indicator has been updated to include 2017 data. For more information: Tables 12.1, 12.2, and 12.3, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018), (https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2017/ss6708.pdf).


58 “Anywhere” includes fights that occurred on school property. The term “anywhere” is not used in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questionnaire; students were simply asked how many times in the past 12 months they had been in a physical fight. In the question asking students about physical fights at school, “on school property” was not defined for survey respondents.
59 In this indicator, students who identified as “gay or lesbian” or “bisexual” are discussed together as the “gay, lesbian, or bisexual” group. Although there are likely to be differences among students who identify with each of these orientations, small sample sizes preclude analysis for each of these groups separately. Students were not asked whether they identified as transgender on the YRBS.
60 U.S. total data are representative of all public and private school students in grades 9–12 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. U.S. total data were collected through a separate national survey rather than being aggregated from state-level data.