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Indicator 13: Physical Fights on School Property and Anywhere
(Last Updated: March 2018)

The percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported being in a physical fight anywhere decreased between 1993 and 2015 (from 42 to 23 percent), and the percentage who reported being in a physical fight on school property also decreased during this period (from 16 to 8 percent).

In the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), students in grades 9–12 were asked about their involvement in physical fights in general (referred to as "anywhere" in this indicator),63 as well as their involvement in physical fights on school property, during the 12 months preceding the survey.64 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 being in a physical fight anywhere decreased between 1993 (the first year of data collection) and 2015 (from 42 to 23 percent), and the percentage of students in these grades who reported being in a physical fight on school property also decreased during this period (from 16 to 8 percent; figure 13.1 and table 13.1). However, no measurable differences were found between the two most recent survey years (2013 and 2015) in the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported being in a physical fight anywhere or on school property.


Figure 13.1. 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 grade: Selected years, 1993 through 2015

Figure 13.1. 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 grade: Selected years, 1993 through 2015

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), 1993 through 2015.


In 2015, the percentage of students who reported being in a physical fight anywhere during the previous 12 months was higher for 9th-graders (28 percent) than for 10th- (23 percent), 11th- (20 percent), and 12th-graders (17 percent), and the percentage was also higher for 10th-graders than for 12th-graders. Similarly, a higher percentage of 9th- graders (12 percent) than of 10th- and 11th-graders (7 percent each) reported being in a physical fight on school property in 2015, and these percentages were all higher than the percentage of 12th-graders who reported doing so (4 percent). From 1993 to 2015, the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported being in a physical fight anywhere, as well as the percentage of those who reported being in a physical fight on school property, decreased for all four grade levels.

The percentages of students in grades 9–12 who reported being in a physical fight differed by race/ethnicity. For example, in 2015 a higher percentage of Black students (32 percent) reported being in a physical fight anywhere during the previous 12 months than did Hispanic students (23 percent), White students (20 percent), and Asian students (15 percent; figure 13.2 and table 13.1). In addition, the percentage of students who reported being in a physical fight anywhere was higher for American Indian/Alaska Native students (30 percent), students of Two or more races (28 percent), Hispanic students, and White students than for Asian students. With regard to physical fights on school property, higher percentages of Pacific Islander students (21 percent) and Black students (13 percent) reported being in a physical fight on school property in 2015 than did Asian students and White students (6 percent each). The percentage of students who reported being in a physical fight on school property was also higher for American Indian/Alaska Native students (13 percent), students of Two or more races (9 percent), and Hispanic students (9 percent) than for White students.


Figure 13.2. 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: 2015

Figure 13.2. 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: 2015

! 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), 2015.


Between 1993 and 2015, the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported being in a physical fight anywhere decreased for White students (from 40 to 20 percent), Black students (from 49 to 32 percent), Hispanic students (from 43 to 23 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native students (from 50 to 30 percent). During the same period, the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported being in a physical fight on school property decreased for White students (from 15 to 6 percent), Black students (from 22 to 13 percent), and Hispanic students (from 18 to 9 percent). Separate data on Asian and Pacific Islander students' involvement in a physical fight have been available since 1999. Between 1999 and 2015, the percentages of Asian students who reported being in a physical fight anywhere and on school property both decreased (from 23 to 15 percent for anywhere and from 10 to 6 percent for on school property). The percentage of Pacific Islander students who reported being in a physical fight anywhere also decreased between 1999 and 2015 (from 51 to 29 percent).

Students in grades 9–12 were asked how many times they had been in a physical fight anywhere or on school property during the previous 12 months. In 2015, about 17 percent of students in these grades reported being in a physical fight anywhere 1 to 3 times, 4 percent reported being in a physical fight anywhere 4 to 11 times, and 2 percent reported being in a physical fight anywhere 12 or more times during the previous 12 months (figure 13.3 and table 13.2). When students in these grades were asked about the incidence of physical fights on school property during the previous 12 months, 7 percent reported being in a physical fight on school property 1 to 3 times, 1 percent reported being in a physical fight on school property 4 to 11 times, and less than 1 percent reported being in a physical fight on school property 12 or more times.


Figure 13.3. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight during the previous 12 months, by location, number of times, and sex: 2015

Figure 13.3. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight during the previous 12 months, by location, number of times, and sex: 2015

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
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), 2015.


In 2015, a higher percentage of male than of female 9th- to 12th-graders reported being in a physical fight anywhere during the previous 12 months (28 vs. 16 percent; figure 13.3 and table 13.1). The reported frequency of fights involving students in these grades was also higher for male students than for female students (figure 13.3). Specifically, a higher percentage of male than of female students reported being in a physical fight anywhere 1 to 3 times (21 vs. 14 percent), 4 to 11 times (5 vs. 2 percent), and 12 or more times (2 vs. 1 percent) during the previous 12 months. Similarly, in 2015 a higher percentage of male students than of female students in grades 9–12 reported that they had been in a physical fight on school property (10 vs. 5 percent). In addition, a higher percentage of male than of female students reported being in a physical fight on school property 1 to 3 times (9 vs. 4 percent), 4 to 11 times (1 percent vs. less than 1 percent), and 12 or more times (1 percent vs. less than 1 percent) during the previous 12 months.

The percentages of both male and female students in grades 9–12 who reported being in a physical fight anywhere and on school property decreased between 1993 and 2015 (table 13.1). About 28 percent of male students reported being in a physical fight anywhere in 2015, compared with 51 percent in 1993; and 10 percent of male students reported being in a physical fight on school property in 2015, compared with 24 percent in 1993. About 16 percent of female students reported being in a physical fight anywhere in 2015, compared with 32 percent in 1993; and 5 percent of female students reported being in a physical fight on school property in 2015, compared with 9 percent in 1993.

In 2015, the YRBS added a new 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."65 In 2015, higher percentages of gay, lesbian, or bisexual students and students who were not sure about their sexual orientation reported being in a physical fight anywhere and on school property during the previous 30 days than did heterosexual students. About 28 percent of gay, lesbian, or bisexual students and 35 percent of students who were not sure about their sexual orientation reported being in a physical fight anywhere, compared with 22 percent of heterosexual students (table 13.3). Similarly, 11 percent of gay, lesbian, or bisexual students and 15 percent of students who were not sure about their sexual orientation reported being in a physical fight on school property, compared with 7 percent of heterosexual students.

Data for the percentage of public school students in grades 9–12 who reported being in a physical fight anywhere in 2015 were available for 31 states and the District of Columbia. Among these jurisdictions, the percentages of students who reported being in a physical fight anywhere ranged from 15 percent in Hawaii and Maine to 32 percent in the District of Columbia (table 13.4). In 2015, data for physical fights on school property involving these students were available for 33 states and the District of Columbia; the percentages of students who reported being in a physical fight on school property ranged from 5 percent in Maine, North Dakota, and Indiana to 14 percent in the District of Columbia.


This indicator repeats information from the Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016 report, but the text has been revised to include additional breakouts that were previously included in a Spotlight feature. For more information: Tables 13.1, 13.2, 13.3, and 13.4, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016a), (http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2015/ss6506_updated.pdf), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016b), (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/ss/pdfs/ss6509.pdf).


63 "Anywhere" includes on school property.
64 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.
65 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.