The survey asked respondents to indicate how many of three specific actions were taken against students for each of the following offenses:
The three disciplinary actions about which schools were asked to report were expulsions, transfers to alternative schools or programs, and out-of-school suspensions lasting 5 or more days. It is important to note that schools may have chosen to invoke any, more than one, or none of these disciplinary actions during the 1996-97 school year for the above offenses. They may also have taken other disciplinary actions. Thus, these three disciplinary options are not an exhaustive list, simply those that were focused upon in this survey. It is important to note that schools may not have experienced any of the crimes or infractions and therefore took no actions.
Possession or use of a firearm. For the possession or use of a firearm, 5 percent of all schools reported taking one or more of these three actions against students for a total of 16,587 actions (Table 18). Half of the actions reported were out-of-school suspensions lasting 5 or more days (49 percent; Figure 7). Twenty percent of school-reported actions were transferring students to alternative schools or programs, and 31 percent were expulsions of students for the possession or use of a firearm (Figure 7 and Table 18).
Possession or use of a weapon other than a firearm. Weapons other than a firearm were defined as any instrument or object used with the intent to threaten, injure, or kill, including knives, razor blades or other sharp-edged objects, ice picks or other pointed objects, baseball bats, sticks, rocks, or bottles. Twenty-two percent of public schools reported having taken one or more of the specific actions against students for possession or use of a weapon other than a firearm (Table 18). About 58,000 actions were reported: 23 percent of these actions were expulsions, 22 percent were transfers to alternative programs or schools, and 55 percent were out-of school suspensions lasting 5 or more days (Figure 7 and Table 18).
Possession, distribution, or use of alcohol or drugs, including tobacco. For the possession, distribution, or use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, 27 percent of schools reported taking a total of about 170,000 actions: 62 percent of the actions were out-of-school suspensions lasting 5 or more days, 20 percent were transfers to alternative schools or programs, and 18 percent were expulsions (Figure 7 and Table 18).
Physical Attacks or Fights. About 40 percent of all public schools reported having taken at least one of the actions against students for fighting for an estimated total of 331,000 actions (Figure 7 and Table 18). The most commonly reported action was out-of-school suspensions lasting 5 or more days (66 percent), followed by transfers to an alternative school or program and expulsions (19 and 15 percent, respectively).
Three-quarters or more of all schools reported having zero tolerance policies for various student offenses (Figure 8 and Table 19). "Zero tolerance policy" was defined as a school or district policy that mandates predetermined consequence/s or punishments for specific offenses. About 90 percent of schools reported zero tolerance policies for firearms (94 percent) and weapons other than firearms (91 percent). Eighty-seven and 88 percent had policies of zero tolerance for alcohol and drugs, respectively. Seventy-nine percent had a zero tolerance policy for violence and 79 percent had a zero tolerance policy for tobacco. Schools with no crime reported were less likely to have a zero tolerance policy for violence (74 percent) than schools that had reported one or more serious crimes (85 percent).
Thirty-nine percent of public schools had a policy to report serious crimes to the public (Table 20). Schools with no reported crime (46 percent) were more likely than schools with reported crime (34 percent) to have such a policy.
Three percent of all public schools require students to wear uniforms (Table 21). About one-fourth (26 percent) of these schools initiated the requirement prior to the 1994-95 school year, 40 percent initiated it between the 1994-95 and 1995-96 school years, and 34 percent initiated it in 1996-97 (Figure 9).
Uniforms were more likely to be required in schools with a high percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (11 percent in schools with 75 percent or more free or reduced-price lunch eligibility) compared with schools in which less than 50 percent of students were eligible (2 percent or less; Table 21). Schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollment were also more likely to require student uniforms than those with lower minority enrollment (13 percent compared with 2 percent or less).
Schools completing the survey were given a list of seven security measures widely used to ensure safety in schools and asked if these measures were used in their institutions. Schools reported on whether the following actions were taken:
Ninety-six percent of public schools reported that visitors were required to sign in before entering the school buildings (Figure 10). This measure was required by almost all schools, with a range of 91-100 percent, regardless of instructional level, size, locale, region, minority enrollment, or percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-priced school lunch (Table 22).
Security included controlled access to school grounds in 24 percent of public schools and was most prevalent in large schools. Forty-nine percent of large schools reported controlling access to school grounds, compared with 16 percent of small schools and 24 percent of medium-sized schools.
Controlled access to school grounds also varied by locale, region, percent minority enrollment, percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and principals' reported discipline problems. City schools were more likely to secure school grounds than rural schools (35 percent, compared with 13 percent). Schools in the Central region of the country were about half as likely to report controlling access to school grounds as those in the Southeast and the West (12 percent compared with 28 to 31 percent, respectively). Controlled access to school grounds was higher in schools with the highest percentages of minority students than those with the lowest percentages (14 percent in schools with less than 5 percent minority enrollment and 38 percent in schools in which at least half the students were minorities) and in schools with the largest proportions of students in poverty than in those with the lowest (18 percent in schools with less than 20 percent eligibility for the free or reduced-price school lunch program and 37 percent in schools with 75 percent eligibility for the school lunch program).
Fifty-three percent of public schools controlled access to their school buildings. Elementary and middle schools were more likely to secure access to the school building than high schools (57 and 51 percent compared with 40 percent). Differences were also found by school size. Fifty-five percent of large schools and 57 percent of medium-sized schools controlled access to their school buildings compared with 40 percent for small schools. City and urban fringe schools were also more likely to control building access (62 and 68 percent, respectively) compared with those located in towns (49 percent) and rural areas (33 percent). Northeastern schools were more inclined to have controlled access to their school buildings (70 percent) compared with Western schools (46 percent), Central schools (48 percent), and Southeastern schools (52 percent).
Eighty percent of schools reported having a closed campus policy prohibiting most students from leaving the campus for lunch. At 93 percent, middle school principals overwhelmingly reported having this policy (Table 22). A smaller percentage of elementary and high schools had this policy (76 and 78 percent, respectively). Sixty-seven percent of small schools had instituted the closed campus policy compared with 82 percent of large schools.
Daily use of metal detectors as a security measure was reported in 1 percent of public schools. Schools where serious violent crimes were reported were more likely to employ metal detectors than those with less serious crime only or no crime (4 percent compared with 1 percent or less). Random metal detector checks were more likely to be reported by large schools (15 percent) compared with small schools (less than 1 percent) or medium-sized schools (4 percent). Similarly, a higher percentage of schools where a serious crime was reported (15 percent) performed these checks compared to schools where no crime was reported (1 percent) or schools where only less serious crimes were reported (4 percent).
Middle and high schools where principals reported at least one serious discipline problem were more likely to use drug sweeps (36 and 45 percent, respectively) compared with elementary schools (5 percent).
In addition to the security measures above, 6 percent of public schools had police or other law enforcement representatives stationed 30 hours or more at the school, 1 percent of schools had law enforcement officials stationed 10 to 29 hours, 3 percent had officials stationed from 1 to 9 hours, 12 percent of schools did not have officials stationed during a typical week (but were available as needed), and 78 percent of schools did not have any officials stationed at their school during the 1996-1997 school year (Table 23). The full-time presence of law officials, while rare at elementary schools (1 percent), was found in 10 percent of middle schools and 19 percent of high schools. It was also reported in 39 percent of large schools with 1,000 or more students, in 13 percent of city schools and schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollment, in 15 percent of schools in which principals felt there were some serious discipline issues, and in 23 percent of schools in which at least one serious crime was reported in 1996-97.