Violence In School http://nces.ed.gov/pubs98/violence/98030001.html Violence and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-97 Executive Summary No matter where you are, parents want their students to be safe and secure .. that might even precede a quality education .. With drugs, gangs, and guns on the rise in many communities the threat of violence weighs heavily on most principals’ minds these days .. Anyone who thinks they are not vulnerable is really nave.
(Principal Michael Durso, Springbrook High School, as quoted in the Washingtonian Magazine, September 1997). Background Recent events have again focused the nation’s attention on violence in U.S. public schools, an issue that has generated public concern and directed research for more than two decades.1 Despite long-standing attention to the problem, there is a growing perception that not all public schools are safe places of learning, and media reports highlight specific school-based violent acts. The seventh goal of the National Education Goals states that by the year 2000, all schools in America will be free of drugs and violence and the unauthorized presence of firearms and alcohol, and offer a disciplined environment that is conducive to learning. In response to this goal, the Congress passed the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1994, which provides for support of drug and violence prevention programs. As part of this legislation, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is required to collect data to determine the frequency, seriousness, and incidence of violence in elementary and secondary schools.
NCES responded to this requirement by commissioning a survey, the Principal/School Disciplinarian Survey on School Violence, 1996-97, the results of which are detailed in this report. The school violence survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 1,234 regular public elementary, middle, and secondary schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the spring and summer of 1997. The survey requested information on four main topics: The incidence of crime and violence that occurred in public schools during the 1996-97 academic year; Principals’ (or school disciplinarians’) perceptions about the seriousness of a variety of discipline issues in their schools; The types of disciplinary actions schools took against students for serious offenses; and The kinds of security measures and violence prevention programs that were in place in public schools. The types of criminal incidents that schools were asked to report included murder, suicide, rape or other type of sexual battery, assault or fight with a weapon, robbery, assault or fight without a weapon, theft/ larceny, and vandalism. Any effort to quantify the frequency and seriousness of these crimes and violent incidents occurring in public schools will be affected by the way in which the information is collected and reported.
Three important aspects of the process that were used to gather the data reported in this publication were: The survey questions asked, including how the questions were phrased, definitions applied, time span covered, and the context in which they were asked; The choice of survey respondent; and The survey sample size. The reader should keep these aspects of the survey in mind when comparing results of this particular sample survey with other studies on school crime and violence. The data reported from this study may vary from data reported elsewhere because of differences in definitions, coverage, respondents, and sample. For example, the data reported in this survey describe the number of incidents of crime, not the number of individuals involved in such incidents. It should be noted that an incident could involve more than one individual perpetrator or individual victim. Similarly, an individual perpetrator or victim could be involved in multiple incidents.
Key Findings How Serious A Problem Was Crime And Violence In U.S. Public Schools In The 1996-1997 School Year? More than half of U.S. public schools reported experiencing at least one crime incident in school year 1996-97, and 1 in 10 schools reported at least one serious violent crime during that school year (table 7). Fifty-seven percent of public elementary and secondary school principals reported that one or more incidents of crime/violence that were reported to the police or other law enforcement officials had occurred in their school during the 1996-97 school year. Ten percent of all public schools experienced one or more serious violent crimes (defined as murder, rape or other type of sexual battery, suicide, physical attack or fight with a weapon, or robbery) that were reported to police or other law enforcement officials during the 1996-97 school year.
Physical attacks or fights without a weapon led the list of reported crimes in public schools with about 190,000 such incidents reported for 1996-97 (figure 1). About 116,000 incidents of theft or larceny were reported along with 98,000 incidents of vandalism. These less serious or nonviolent crimes were more common than serious violent crimes, with schools reporting about 4,000 incidents of rape or other type of sexual battery, 7,000 robberies, and 11,000 incidents of physical attacks or fights in which weapons were used. While 43 percent of public schools reported no incidents of crime in 1996-97, 37 percent reported from one to five crimes and about 20 percent reported six crimes or more (figure 3). What Types Of Schools Were Likely To Have More Serious Problems With Crime And Violence? Crime and violence were more of a problem in middle and high schools than in elementary schools.
Middle schools and high schools were more likely to report that they had experienced one or more incidents of any crime and one or more incidents of serious violent crime than elementary schools (table 7). Forty-five percent of elementary schools reported one or more violent incidents compared with 74 percent of middle and 77 percent of high schools. Four percent of elementary schools reported one or more serious violent crimes compared with 19 percent of middle and 21 percent of high schools. Of the less serious or nonviolent crimes, the largest ratios of crimes per 100,000 students were found in middle and high schools compared with elementary schools. This was true for physical attacks or fights without a weapon, theft/larceny, and vandalism (table 10).
In general, elementary schools reported proportionately fewer incidents of serious violent crime. They reported lower rates of physical attacks or fights with a weapon and rape or other type of sexual battery when compared with middle schools and high schools. However, while elementary schools reported lower ratios of robbery compared with high schools, they were not significantly different from middle schools. Schools that reported serious discipline problems were more likely to have experienced one or more incidents of crime or violence, and were more likely to experience serious violent crime than those with less serious discipline problems (table 7). Sixteen percent of public school principals considered at least one serious discipline problem (out of 17 discipline issues that they were asked about) to be a serious problem in their schools in 1996-97 (table 12). The remaining schools were about equally divided between those that had minor or no discipline problems on all 17 issues (43 percent) and those that reported a moderate (but no serious) problem on at least 1 of the issues (41 percent). Principals in public high schools and middle schools were more likely than public elementary school principals to rate at least one discipline issue as a serious problem in their schools. Thirty-seven percent of high school principals reported at least one serious discipline problem in their schools compared with 18 percent of middle school principals and 8 percent of elementary school principals (table 12).
In both 1990-91 and 1996-97, the three discipline issues most frequently rated as serious or moderate problems by principals were student tardiness, student absenteeism or class cutting, and physical conflicts among students (table 13). What Measures Are Schools Taking To Deal With Problems Of Crime And Violences? Most public schools reported having zero tolerance policies towards serious student offenses (table 19). Principals were asked about whether the school had zero-tolerance policies, defined as school or district policy mandating predetermined consequences for various student offenses. The proportion of schools that had such policies ranged from 79 to 94 percent on violence, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, weapons other than firearms, and firearms (figure 8 and table 19). Most schools reported that they employed low levels of security measures to prevent violence (figure 11). To discover what types of security were employed, schools were asked whether visitors must sign in, if there was a closed campus policy for most students during lunch, if access to the school building was controlled, if access to school grounds was controlled, if there had been one or more drug sweeps, whether the school used random metal detector checks on students, or whether students must pass through metal detectors daily (table 22).
Schools were also asked about the presence of police or other law enforcement at the school (table 23). Two percent of public schools had stringent security, which was defined as a full-time guard and daily or random metal detector checks (figure 11). Eleven percent of schools had instituted moderate security measures such as a full-time guard, or a part-time guard with restricted access to the school, or metal detectors with no guards, while 84 percent of public schools reported having a low level of security-restricted access to their schools but no guards or metal detectors. Another 3 percent reported that none of the security measures asked about in the survey were used. Most schools reported having formal school violence prevention programs (table 25).
Seventy-eight percent of schools reported having some type of formal violence-prevention or violence reduction program or effort. Fifty percent of public schools with violence-prevention programs indicated that all or almost all of their students participated in these programs (figure 12 and table 30). Footnote:  U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Violent Schools – Safe Schools: The Safe School Study Report to the Congress, December 1977. Last updated March 18, 1998 Questions, problems or comments with this Web site? Contact . Introduction The disruption caused by violence in our nation’s public elementary and secondary schools is a national concern.
Crime in and around schools threatens the well-being of students, school staff, and communities. It also impedes learning and student achievement. The seventh goal of the National Education Goals states that by the year 2000, all schools in America will be free of drugs and violence and the unauthorized presence of firearms and alcohol, and offer a disciplined environment that is conducive to learning. To accomplish this goal, the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1994 provides for support of drug and violence prevention programs. The Act includes an impact evaluation component, which contains a provision requiring the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to collect data to determine the frequency, seriousness, and incidence of violence in elementary and secondary schools. Responding to this legislation, NCES commissioned a survey (the Principal/School Disciplinarian Survey on School Violence) to obtain current data on school violence and other discipline issues in our nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.
The survey requested information about 1) the actual number of specific crimes that had occurred at school during the 1996-97 academic year; 2) principals’ perceptions about the seriousness of a variety of discipline issues at their schools; 3) the types of disciplinary actions schools took against students for some serious violations; and 4) the kinds of security measures and violence prevention programs that were in place in public schools. Principals were asked to provide information about incidents of crime and violence that were serious enough for the police or other law enforcement representatives to have been contacted. They were also asked to report only on incidents occurring in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at school-sponsored events or activities held in places other than school grounds or school property. The data collected indicate both the incidence and frequency of many types of serious crimes that took place in public schools and the types of security and other violence-prevention measures in place in schools. This report presents the findings from the survey, which was conducted for NCES by Westat, a research firm in Rockville, Maryland. The survey was conducted through the NCES Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) during the spring and summer of 1997. FRSS is a survey system designed to collect small amounts of issue-oriented data with minimal burden on respondents and within a relatively short time frame.
Questionnaires were mailed to school principals, who were asked to complete the survey form or to have it completed by the person most knowledgeable about discipline issues at the school. The survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of regular public elementary, middle, and high schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Special education, alternative, and vocational schools, and schools that taught only prekindergarten, kindergarten, or adult education were not represented in the sample. Survey findings are presented separately for all regular public schools, and by the following school characteristics (defined in the glossary of terms on pages 32 through 35): Instructional level: elementary, middle, high school. Size of enrollment: less than 300 students (small schools), 300 to 999 students (medium-sized schools), 1,000 or more students (large schools).
Locale of school: city, urban fringe, town, rural. Geographic region: Northeast, Southeast, Central, West. Percent minority enrollment: less than 5 percent, 5 to 19 percent, 20 to 49 percent, 50 percent or more. Percent of students eligible for the federally funded free or reduced-price lunch program used as a measure of poverty concentration: less than 20 percent, 20 to 34 percent, 35 to 49 percent, 50 to 74 percent, 75 percent or more. Some survey findings are also presented by school characteristics reported in the survey: Principals’ reports on discipline problems in their schools: no problems/ minor problems reported by principal, moderate problems, and serious problems. Types of crime reported: no crime, any crime (including less serious or nonviolent crime only and/or some serious crimes reported), lesser crimes only, some serious crimes reported.
Zero tolerance policy for violence: schools reporting that they do have a zero tolerance policy for violence, schools reporting that they do not have a zero tolerance policy for violence. Police/law enforcement presence: 30 hours or more per week; 10-29 hours per week; 1-9 hours per week; stationed as needed; none stationed at the school. It is important to note that many of the school characteristics used for independent analyses may also be related to each other. The size of enrollment and instructional level of schools, for example, are known to be related with middle schools and high schools typically being larger than elementary schools. Similarly, locale may be related to poverty level and other relationships between analysis variables may exist. The sample size was not large enough to control for these types of relationships.
Their existence, however, should be considered in the interpretation of the data presented in this report. Among the data collected on school discipline and violence issues in public schools were incidents of specific crimes and on a variety of specific discipline issues. The types of crimes and discipline issues on which this survey focused do not represent an exhaustive list of possible school crime or discipline infractions. Also, the number of incidents of crime reported by schools is not the same as the number of individuals involved in such incidents and the reader should keep in mind the specifics of this study when comparing the findings reported here with other studies on school crime and violence. The data reported in this study may vary from data reported elsewhere because of differences in definitions, coverage, respondents, and sample.
Among the issues to consider in interpreting the data presented in this report are: The Choice of Survey Respondent. This survey relied on the responses of public school principals (or school disciplinarians) to report on all data items requested. This includes the reports on the incidence of specific crimes in their schools. There are other surveys in existence, most notably the annual National Crime Victimization Survey of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Justice, that request information from actual crime victims.2 It is likely that the incident reports provided by a third party, in this case school principals, may be an undercount of the incidents of crime and violence that might have occurred during the school year examined. This is particularly likely for lesser incidents, such as theft, that may not have been reported to the principal as they occurred. Thus, comparisons with reports by victims of crimes that occurred in public schools will not necessarily match those reports provided by school principals in this study.
The Survey Questions Asked. For reporting on specific incidents of crime, principals were asked to provide information only on those serious enough for the police or other law enforcement representatives to have been contacted. Additionally, the incidents reported were restricted to those that occurred in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at school-sponsored events or activities held in places other than school grounds or school property. These restrictions were necessary to improve recall and to ensure that the incidents that were reported were both of a serious nature and comparable across schools. These restrictions could result in a lower number of reported incidents when compared with the number reported by other studies that do not similarly restrict the questions asked. The Survey Sample Size.
The sample size for this survey, 1,234 public schools, was too small to ensure reliable estimates for very rare events. In the case of school-based violence, both murders and suicides are relatively rare events. In fact, no murders were reported by principals in this survey. Although a small number of suicides were reported and later verified, the number was too small to allow the calculation of reliable estimates and is therefore not reported in the results of this survey, except where combined with other types of violent events to present general statistics. This does not mean that no murders or suicides occurred in public schools during the 1996-97 school year.
Other studies have detailed both incidents of murder and suicide in public schools and discussed the methodology employed to make such estimates.3 Finally, the reader should be cautioned that any sample survey is subject to data collection errors and response bias. Further information on the technical specifications, response rates, calculation of standard errors and testing of comparisons presented in this text are provided in the section on survey methodology and sample selection at the end of the report. Data have been weighted to national estimates of regular public schools and table A on page 28 provides the weighted and unweighted distribution of the sample by the analysis variables. All comparative statements made in this report have been tested for statistical significance through chi-square tests or t-tests adjusted for multiple comparisons using the Bonferroni adjustment and are significant at the 0.05 level or better. However, not all statistically significant comparisons have been presented.
Data are presented in figures appearing in the text and in reference tables that appear in the Table of Estimates and Standard Errors on pages 37 to 122. The survey questionnaire is reproduced in appendix A. Incidents of Crime and Violence in Public Schools Public school principals were presented with a list of crimes and asked to report the number of incidents of each type of crime that had occurred at their schools during the 1996-97 school year. The crimes about which schools were asked were murder, suicide, rape or other type of sexual battery, physical attack or fight with a weapon, robbery, physical attack or fight without a weapon, theft or larceny, and vandalism. Respondents were provided with definitions for each of these types of crime (those definitions appear in the glossary of this report on pages 32 through 35). Under the assumption that crimes or offenses reported to police would be more accurately recalled, schools were asked to report only those incidents for which the police or other law enforcement representatives had been contacted. It was also assumed that requiring a benchmark of law enforcement contact would minimize subjective judgment about which incidents to include. Only crimes occurring at the school, including those that took place in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at school-sponsored events or activities, but not officially on school grounds, were to be reported. While student victimization and teacher-reported data on crimes occurring at school have been collected and reported elsewhere, school principals were asked to report unduplicated incidents at the school level.4 During 1996-97, about 4,000 incidents of rape or other types of sexual battery were reported in our nation’s public schools (figure 1 and table 1).
There were about 11,000 incidents of physical attacks or fights in which weapons were used and 7,000 robberies in schools that year. About 190,000 fights or physical attacks not involving weapons also occurred at schools in 1996-97, along with about 115,000 thefts and 98,000 incidents of vandalism (tables 2-6). Because the sample size was not large enough to produce reliable estimates for very rare events, the survey was not able to estimate either the percentage of schools experiencing one or more incidents of murder or suicide or the total number of these crimes that occurred at public schools during 1996-97. For example, in the sample of 1,234 public schools, murder was not reported by any of the schools and, similarly, only 4 schools in the sample reported any incidents of suicide. The rarity of the occurrence of these crimes at school, given the sample size of the study, precluded the generation of reliable national estimates.
In a descriptive case study of violent deaths in schools, Kachur, et al., estimated that there were 105 school-associated violent deaths including 85 murders occurring at schools during a 2-year period from 1992 to 1994.5 Footnotes:  See W. Mansfield, D. Alexander, and E. Farris, Teacher Survey on Safe, Disciplined, and Drug-Free Schools, Fast Response Survey System, FRSS 42, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1991 (NCES 91-091) for teacher-reported data. For student-reported crime data see L.
Bastian and B. Taylor, School Crime, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1991 (NCJ-131645), and M.J. Nolan, E. Daily, and K. Chandler, Student Victimization at School, U.S.
Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1995 (NCES 95-204).  S.P. Kachur, et al., School Associated Violent Deaths in the United States, 1992 to 1994, Journal of the American Medical Association, June 12, 1996, 275(22): 1729-1733. Last updated March 18, 1998 Questions, problems or comments with this Web site? Contact . Percent of Public Schools Reporting Crime and Violence Schools were asked to report the number of incidents of various crimes. To understand the extent to which crimes affect our nation’s public schools and public school students, the incidence of crime in terms of the proportion of schools experiencing crimes are examined below. Nationally, 43 percent of schools reported that none of the listed crimes had occurred there during the 1996-97 school year (figure 2 and table 7).
Fifty-seven percent, however, reported that at least one of these crimes had occurred and had been reported to the police. One in 10 public schools reported at least one serious violent crime such as rape or sexual battery, suicide, physical attacks or fights with weapon, or robbery had occurred at the school. Almost half (47 percent) indicated that they had experienced no incidents of serious violent crime, but one or more less serious crimes such as a physical attack or fight without the use of a weapon, theft, or vandalism had occurred. Vandalism was reported by 38 percent of public schools, theft/larceny by 31 percent of schools, and physical attacks or fights without a weapon by 28 percent (table 8). These crimes were the most frequently occurring in terms of the percentages of schools affected.
Smaller percentages of schools reported more serious crimes: 3 percent of public schools reported the occurrence of a rape or other type of sexual battery at the school; 3 percent, a robbery; and 6 percent, a physical attack or fight in which a weapon had been used. With the exception of vandalism, roughly the same percentage of schools reporting various types of crime also reported incidents involving students as either victims or perpetrators and that crime occurred during school hours or at school-sponsored events. A smaller percentage of elementary schools than middle schools or high schools reported that any crime at all occurred during the 1996-97 school year (table 7). About half of all elementary schools (45 percent) reported at least one crime. In contrast, 74 percent of middle schools and 77 percent of high schools did so.
Higher percentages of middle and high schools also reported at least one serious violent crime (i.e., robbery, rape or sexual battery, or assault or fight with a weapon), with about 20 percent indicating a serious violent crime had occurred at the school compared with 4 percent for elementary schools. School crime was also more likely in larger schools. While 38 percent of small schools reported any incidents, 60 percent of medium-sized schools, and 89 percent of large schools reported criminal incidents. Serious violent crime was more likely to be reported by the largest schools. One-third of schools with enrollments of 1,000 or more reported at least one serious violent crime, compared with 4 to 9 percent in schools with fewer than 1,000 students. Schools in cities were at least twice as likely to report serious violent crime as those in towns and in rural locations, although city schools were not significantly different from urban fringe schools. Seventeen percent of city sc …