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Safety in Numbers: Collecting and Using Crime, Violence, and Discipline Incident Data to Make a Difference in Schools
Chapter 1
  Using Data to Make a Difference
Chapter 2
    Meeting the Challenges of Data Collection
Chapter 3
    Reporting Incident Data
Chapter 4
    Collecting Data
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Ghedam Bairu

(202) 502-7304



Two priorities have emerged for public schools in recent years. One is for schools to demonstrate that all children are meeting high academic standards as measured by state assessments. The other is for schools to create an environment that is free of violence and other crimes. These are not separate missions. Children need safe and orderly schools in order to learn. Collecting and using incident data are essential steps for creating safe schools. With good data, it is possible to develop effective prevention and intervention plans. Benefits of data collection include helping schools:

  • Improve overall school safety;
  • Address specific safety or discipline issues (e.g., bullying);
  • Conserve resources including staff time; and
  • Obtain additional resources for school safety.
This document presents the recommendations of the Crime, Violence, and Discipline Task Force on what types of information to collect, why it is important to collect such information, and how it can be used to improve school safety.

"Incidents" are anything from criminal acts, such as robbery, that result in the involvement of law enforcement officials to minor problem behaviors that disrupt the orderly functioning of schools and classrooms, such as tardiness. A single event (e.g., a fight) is one incident regardless of how many perpetrators or victims are involved.

Effective data collection and analysis are powerful tools for creating positive learning climates.

Effective data collection and analysis are powerful tools for creating positive learning climates and are critical activities for schools and school districts nationally. Chapter 1 presents the rationale for how collecting and using incident data can help schools achieve their mission; Chapter 2 discusses meeting the challenges of data collection; Chapter 3 describes approaches for presenting information (to the public) on what has been collected; and Chapter 4 presents elements of the incident database. In addition, appendices provide current Federal reporting requirements and a list of other NCES and Forum handbooks.

The recommendations presented in this handbook presume that users will store incident data in a relational database with separate modules for incident, perpetrator, victim, and disciplinary action data that contain links to student and staff databases. A system with separate modules or data tables will be especially helpful for documenting unusual incidents. A relational database will also be valuable when conducting analyses, particularly those that involve disaggregation of incidents by characteristics of interest to the user, such as race/ethnicity, gender, or disability.

A relational database will also prove useful when responding to state and Federal requests for information. For example, three offices of the U.S. Department of Education presently require significant amounts of information on incidents and disciplinary actions from schools, districts, and states. While these data requests are substantial, they are also subject to change. New education legislation often brings new data collection requirements. The flexibility allowed by a relational database can substantially reduce the amount of time needed to comply with current and future reporting requirements.

This handbook presents comprehensive recommendations on what kinds of data to collect. Users are encouraged to select only what will be helpful from this list. Local adaptability is a strength of this data collection model. States and local school districts are encouraged to apply the definitions wherever possible, keeping in mind current state legislation and local school board requirements. While these recommendations are not a Federal mandate, for comparability purposes, the Task Force recommends that consistent definitions be used nationally.