By a Biometrica staffer
In 2019, lower percentages of students aged 12-18 reported any kind of criminal victimization during the previous six months, compared with 2009, and that included theft and non-fatal violent victimization, a report published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) shows. The report, titled Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2020, aims to establish reliable indicators of the current state of school crime and safety across the nation.
There were also fewer reports of students being bullied during the school year, being called hate-related words, seeing hate-related graffiti, and observing gang presence at school. Similarly, the percentages for those in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight on school property in the previous 12 months, and carrying a weapon on school property during the last 30 days was also lower in 2019 than in 2009.
But, reports of certain crime and safety-related issues were either unchanged or became more common over time. For instance, the percentages of students aged 12–18 who reported avoiding one or more places in school during the school year because they thought someone might attack or harm them was slightly higher than it was in 2009 (i.e., 5% in 2019 versus 4% in 2009). Among those in grades 9–12 who were asked about issues faced on school property during the past year, 22% reported being offered, sold, or given an illegal drug, while 7% reported being threatened or injured with a weapon — roughly the same when compared with the numbers from 2009, the report says.
In today’s piece, we give you a quick look at what the report says on various topics related to school safety, including violent deaths, shootings, more on criminal victimization, bullying, gangs, hate-related speech, fights, weapons, illegal substances, and student and teacher perception of school safety.
Violent death and shootings
Although these events are rare, they tend to have far-reaching effects on schools considering the level of tragedy that comes with it. In 2019–20, there were a total of 75 school shootings with casualties, including 27 with deaths and 48 with injuries only. In addition, there were 37 reported school shootings with no casualties in 2019–20. Most of the school shootings, whether with or without casualties, happened at high schools.
Research done in the past has shown that students who are bullied are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, have more health complaints, and skip or drop out of school. The involvement of young bullying victims in recent suicides and school shootings has also heightened concerns regarding the public health implications of bullying, the report says.
However, the percentage of students aged 12–18 who reported being bullied at school in 2019 was lower than the comparable percentage in 2009 (i.e., 22% in 2019 versus 28% in 2009). The percentages of students who reported being bullied was higher for those who belonged to two or more races (37%) than for white students (25%), Black students (22%), and Asian students (13%). The report also says 16% of students in grades 9–12 reported being bullied electronically during the previous 12 months in 2019. In this case, the percentage was higher for students of the LGBTQ community.
In 2019, students ages 12–18 experienced 764,600 victimizations at school and 509,300 victimizations away from school. This translates to a rate of 30 victimizations per 1,000 students at school, higher than the rate of 20 victimizations per 1,000 students away from school. But both rates represent a decrease of more than 80% from what was recorded in 1992. A higher percentage of male students reported any victimization at school than female students, but that was largely driven by a higher percentage of male students reporting violent victimization.
Gangs and hate-related speech
In 2019, of students ages 12–18, about 9% reported a gang presence at their school during the school year, 7% reported being called hate-related words, and 23% reported seeing hate-related graffiti. But those conditions appear to be less prevalent than they were a decade ago, based on the number of reported incidents. Students who reported being called hate-related word at school during the school year were asked to indicate whether the derogatory word they were called referred to their race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. In 2019, race was the most frequently reported characteristic referred to by hate-related words, the report added.
Fights, weapons, and illegal substances
The percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere during the previous 12 months was 22 % in 2019 versus 31% in 2009. Those who reported having been involved in a physical fight on school property in the previous 12 months was also lower than in 2009. There were more male students who reported having been in a physical fight on school property than female students in 2019. The percentage was also higher for students who were American Indian/Alaska Native (19%), Black (15%), and those who belonged to two or more races (11%) than it was for students who were white (6%) or Asian (5%).
Student perceptions of school safety
In 2019, about 5% of students ages 12–18 reported that they had been afraid of an attack or being harmed at school during the school year, higher than the percentage of students who reported that they had been afraid of an attack or being harmed away from school. The numbers reported, though, were not measurably different from those in 2009, the report said.
When it comes to teachers, threats of injury were more common than actual physical attacks, the report says citing data from the 2015–16 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS). Both percentages, i.e., of threat of injury and actual physical attack, were higher in 2015–16 than in 2007–08.
Other key points
Schools implement preventative and responsive measures across the U.S. to maintain discipline, order, and safety. In 2019, about 94% of students reported a written code of student conduct, and 89% reported the presence of school staff or other adults supervising the hallway, other than security guards or assigned police officers. But both measures were also less prevalent compared to a decade ago (i.e., 96% and 91%, respectively). In contrast, the percentage of students who reported observing the use of one or more security cameras to monitor the school increased between 2009 and 2019 (from 70% to 86%), as did the percentages of students who reported observing the use of locked entrance or exit doors during the day and the presence of security guards or assigned police officers.
When it comes to post-secondary institutions, in 2018 a total of 28,500 criminal incidents against persons and property on campuses of post-secondary institutions were reported to police and security agencies. That translates to 19.5 on-campus crimes reported per 10,000 full-time-equivalent students. Although the overall number of reported on-campus crimes was lower in 2018 than in 2009, the number of reported forcible sex offenses on campus increased. Also, a total of 814 hate crimes were reported on the campuses of post-secondary institutions in 2018.