Violent crime at the nation’s schools is declining, and students and schools are reporting less bullying and gang activity, according to federal data released last week.
The number of violent deaths on school grounds declined to 33 in the 2009-10 school year, the lowest number on record since the U.S. departments of Education and Justice began collecting data in 1992, a report from the agencies says. In the previous school year, there were 38 such deaths.
Thefts and nonfatal violent crimes declined from 1.2 million in 2008 to 828,000 in 2010.
While the data show a consistent decline across several indicators, there were increases in a few areas, including cyberbullying and suicides among youths ages 5 to 18 outside of school.
Some school safety advocates, however, questioned whether the numbers are accurate, noting the data are collected through surveys and not incident-based reporting.
“The federal reports grossly underestimate the extent of school violence,” said Kenneth Trump, the president of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm.
Of the 33 violent deaths involving students, staff members, and others on school campuses, 25 were homicides, five were suicides, and three involved a law-enforcement officer. Among 5- to 18-year-olds, 17 homicides and one suicide occurred on school grounds during the 2009-10 school year.
The highest number of violent deaths at schools—63—occurred in the 2006-07 school year.
“It’s hard to interpret a change from one year to another,” said Tom Snyder, a project director at the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. “The numbers are lower, but you don’t know if it’s part of a national pattern or just reflecting random occurrences in those years.”
A version of this article appeared in the February 29, 2012 edition of Education Week as Study Points to Decrease in On-Campus Crimes