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Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 1998


Schools should be safe and secure places for all students, teachers, and staff members. Without a safe learning environment, teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn. Recent efforts by schools, local authorities, and the state and federal governments have prompted the nation to focus on improving the safety of American schools. It is the hope that all children will be able to go to and from school and be at school without fearing for their safety or the safety of their friends and teachers. Judging progress toward providing safer schools requires establishing good indicators on the current state of school crime and safety and periodically monitoring and updating these indicators.

This report, the first in a series of annual reports on school crime and safety from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics, presents the latest available data on school crime and student safety. The report provides a profile of school crime and safety in the United States and describes the characteristics of the victims of these crimes. It is organized as a series of indicators, with each indicator presenting data on different aspects of school crime and safety. There are five sections to the report: Nonfatal Student Victimization -- Student Reports; Violence and Crime at School -- Public School Principal/Disciplinarian Reports; Violent Deaths at School; Nonfatal Teacher Victimization at School -- Teacher Reports; and School Environment. Each section contains a set of indicators that, taken as a whole, describe a distinct aspect of school crime and safety.

The indicators rely on data collected by a variety of federal departments and agencies including the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the , the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because the report relies on so many different data sets, the age groups and the time periods analyzed can vary from indicator to indicator. Readers should keep this in mind as they compare data from different indicators. Furthermore, while every effort has been made to keep key definitions consistent across indicators, different surveys sometimes use different definitions, such as those for specific crimes and "at school".1 Therefore caution should be used in making comparisons between results from different data sets. Descriptions of these data sets are located in appendix B of this report. Some of the key findings from the various sections of this report are as follows:2

Nonfatal Student Victimization -- Student Reports

In 1996, students ages 12 through 18 were victims of about 255,000 incidents of nonfatal serious violent crime at school and about 671,000 incidents away from school. These numbers indicate that when students were away from school they were more likely to be victims of nonfatal serious violent crime -- including rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault -- than when they were at school (Indicator 1).

Violence and Crime at School -- Public School Principal/Disciplinarian Reports

In 199697, 10 percent of all public schools reported at least one serious violent crime to the police or a law enforcement representative. Principals' reports of serious violent crimes included murder, rape or other type of sexual battery, suicide, physical attack or fight with a weapon, or robbery. Another 47 percent of public schools reported a less serious violent or nonviolent crime (but not a serious violent one). Crimes in this category include physical attack or fight without a weapon, theft/larceny, and vandalism. The remaining 43 percent of public schools did not report any of these crimes to the police (Indicator 6).

Violent Deaths at School

Seventy-six students were murdered or committed suicide at school3 during the combined 1992-93 and 1993-94 school years (the latest period for which data are available). Nonstudent violent deaths also occurred at school. During this period, there were 105 violent deaths at school of which 29 involved nonstudents (Indicator 8).

Nonfatal Teacher Victimization at School -- Teacher Reports

Over the 5-year period from 1992 to 1996, teachers were victims of 1,581,000 nonfatal crimes at school, including 962,000 thefts and 619,000 violent crimes (rape or sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault) (Indicator 9). This translates into about 316,000 nonfatal crimes per year over this time period.

School Environment

Between 1989 and 1995, there were increases in the percentages of students feeling unsafe while they were at school and while they were going to and from school. In 1989, 6 percent of students ages 12 through 19 sometimes or most of the time feared they were going to be attacked or harmed at school. By 1995, this percentage had risen to 9 percent. During the same period, the percentage of students fearing they would be attacked while traveling to and from school rose from 4 percent to 7 percent (Indicator 12).


[1] Readers should consult the glossary of terms in appendix C for the specific definitions used in each survey.Back

[2] All comparisons reported in this report were statistically significant at the 0.05 level. See appendix B for details on the methods used here.Back

[3] For this indicator, "at school" includes on school property, on the way to or from school, and while attending or traveling to or from an official school-sponsored event.Back

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