Policies on School Safety Open to Debate
The No Child Left Behind Act requires each state to establish its own definition of a “persistently dangerous” school and to identify schools falling into this category. In addition, the law mandates that students attending persistently dangerous schools be allowed to transfer to safer campuses. These provisions of the law have often been ridiculed because so few schools have been labeled as persistently dangerous. Nationally, the number of schools designated as persistently dangerous has declined from 54 schools in 2002-03 to 41 schools in 2005-06.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Education’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Advisory Committee met to discuss ways to improve the NCLB provision on dangerous schools. According to
a Nov. 1, 2006, article in Education Week, the committee has received input from researchers who suggest that a lack of accurate data on school violence is a significant issue. Members of the panel also say that NCLB should lead schools to address bullying and other precursors to school crime.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nationwide, based on its 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 6.5 percent of high school students had carried a weapon on school property, 7.9 percent of high school students had been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, 13.6 percent of high school students had been in a physical fight on school property, and 6.0 percent of high school students had not gone to school because of safety concerns. Some states have implemented policies addressing school safety. Education Week‘s Quality Counts 2006 report found that, for the 2005-06 school year, 27 states’ school report cards included school safety information, 34 states had laws or regulations with provisions related to school bullying/harassment, 15 states financed a program to reduce school bullying/harassment, and 34 states had laws enforcing specific penalties for incidents of school violence.
For this week’s Stat of the Week, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center conducted an analysis to look at state policies on school safety and at the levels of reported threats or injuries in states. In this analysis, data on state policies on school safety were taken from the EPE Research Center’s 2004 state policy survey for Quality Counts and data on the percentage of students threatened or injured with a weapon on school property were taken from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System’s 2005 state surveys of 9th-12th grade students. Our analysis is limited to the 40 states where the youth risk behavior surveys were conducted.
States were given a school safety policy score based on how many of the following policies they had implemented: 1) school report cards include school safety information; 2) state laws or regulations include provisions related to school bullying; and 3) state law enforces specific penalties for incidents of school violence. The scale for the school safety scores ranged from 0-3 with states with none of the policies receiving a score of 0 and states with all policies receiving a score of 3. This analysis found that 4 states received a state policy score of zero, 8 states received a score of one, 14 states had a score of two, and 14 states had a score of three.
The analysis then looked at the relationship between state policies on school safety (in effect for the 2003-04 school year) and the percentage of high school students threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in states in 2005. It showed that there was not a statistically significant correlation between state school safety policy scores and on-campus threats or injuries. Further research into school safety might address whether school-level policies or programs are more strongly correlated with school crime statistics than state-level initiatives.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surveillance Summaries. MMWR 2006; 55.
To find out more about school climate in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, access the Education Counts database.
For background, previous stories, and Web links, read Violence and Safety.