400,000 Found Victims of Violent Crimes in Schools

By Millicent Lawton — October 09, 1991 3 min read

WASHINGTON--Nine percent of 12 to 19-year-olds were victims of crime in their schools during six months in 1988 and 1989, with 2 percent of students in that age range victims of violent crime, a federal survey says.

Extrapolated nationwide, that means an estimated 400,000 students in that age group faced violent crime in their schools, the survey said.

The Justice Department study “School Crime,” released last week, also reported that 15 percent of students surveyed said that their schools had gangs, and 16 percent said that a student had attacked or threatened a teacher at their school.

The study polled 10,449 youths nationwide between January and June 1989 who had attended public or private school anytime in the preceding six months. Students reported on crime activity occurring in the six months before they were interviewed. There are some 21.6 million students ages 12 to 19 in the nation’s schools.

Violent crime--which includes simple assaults without a weapon as well as robbery and rape cut across racial lines and income levels, affecting whites and non-whites and poor and affluent students in similar proportions, the study said.

However, Hispanic students were less likely than non-Hispanics to have sustained a property crime, and those students whoso family income was $50,000 or more were more likely to be victims of property crime than were those whose families earned less than $10,000 a year.

Public-school students were somewhat more likely to be crime victims than were those who attended private schools, the survey showed. Nine percent of public students reported crime as opposed to 7 percent of private students.

The study also revealed that students living in families that had moved three or more times in the preceding five years were nearly twice as likely to be a crime victim as students who had moved ne more than once. The frequent movers experienced violent crime three times as often as students who had moved less frequently, the report said.

And despite the presence of hall monitors, violent crime occurred about as often in monitored schools as it did in schools without such measures, student reports indicated.

Drugs and Gangs

Students in the survey also reported that both drugs and alcohol were available on campus, with 31 percent reporting that alcohol could easily be obtained at or near their schools and 30 percent saying they could easily obtain marijuana.

Eleven percent said cocaine was easy to obtain, and 9 percent reported that crack was obtainable. But 58 percent said cocaine and crack were hard or impossible to obtain at school.

Drugs appeared to be easier to obtain at public schools--70 percent of public students, but only 52 percent of private students, said they could easily obtain them.

On questions about gang activity, the survey revealed that black and Hispanic students, those with family incomes below $30,000 a year, and students in central cities were more likely to attend a school with gangs.

The students who attended schools with gangs were also more likely to be victims of some type of crime than were students from schools without gangs. Twelve percent of students in schools with gangs reported crimes, compared with 8 percent in other schools.

Students in schools with gangs also were about twice as likely as students from schools without gangs to be afraid of attack, were more likely to avoid areas inside the building such as restrooms or hallways than outside areas, and were more likely to report that drugs could be obtained at the school--78 percent versus 66 percent.

Fear of crime is also a factor on school campuses, the study showed.

Six percent of students said they avoided some place in and around their school because they thought someone might attack or harm them. School restrooms were most often mentioned, followed by hallways.

Fear of an attack at school appeared with the same frequency--22 percent--across racial and gender lines, except for Hispanic students, who feared attack at school or going to and from school at slightly higher rates, according to the survey.

Fear of an attack going to or from school was greater among girls than boys and among blacks and students of other races, such as Asians and Native Americans, than among whites.

A version of this article appeared in the October 09, 1991 edition of Education Week as 400,000 Found Victims of Violent Crimes in Schools