Far Fewer Students ‘Afraid’ at School, Federal Data Show

By Evie Blad — July 13, 2015 2 min read
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Cross-posted from Rules for Engagement.

A new collection of federal data on school safety and climate released last week shows several positive trends.

Fewer high school students reported being in physical fights on school grounds, fewer teens reported victimization at school, and fewer students reported carrying weapons at school, according to various federal data sources included in the annual Indicators of School Crime and Safety report, produced by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

In addition, the percentage of students who reported being “afraid of attack or harm at school or on the way to and from school” dropped from 12 percent in 1995 to 3 percent in 2013, said the report, which also covers indicators we’ve previously reported on issues like bullying, drugs, and school safety measures.

The report comes at a time when a growing number of schools are working to address students’ needs for physical and emotional safety and to build supportive relationships throughout the school environment.

“For both students and teachers, victimization at school can have lasting effects. In addition to experiencing loneliness, depression, and adjustment difficulties, victimized children are more prone to truancy, poor academic performance, dropping out of school, and violent behaviors,” the report said. “For teachers, incidents of victimization may lead to professional disenchantment and even departure from the profession altogether.”

Violent Deaths at School

While researchers say a wide range of school climate and safety indicators affect students’ academic performance and well-being, school-related violent deaths generally grab the most headlines.

The report includes the most recent federal tabulation of school-related homicides and suicides from the 2011-12 school year, which notably predates the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. Preliminary data show that there were 45 “school-associated violent deaths” from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012. That fits within the range of school deaths from the last decade. Here’s a graph that breaks down the figure into smaller categories.

Victimization at School

“Between 1995 and 2013, the percentage of students ages 12-18 who reported being victimized at school during the previous 6 months decreased overall (from 10 to 3 percent), as did the percentages of students who reported theft (from 7 to 2 percent), violent victimization (from 3 to 1 percent), and serious violent victimization (from 1 percent to less than one-half of 1 percent),” the report said.

Still, overall rates of victimization were higher at school than away from school for those students. In 2013, students 12-18 experienced 55 victimizations per 1,000 students at school and 30 per 1,000 students away from school. Those rates include theft, simple assaults, and “serious violent” victimization, which includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Student reports of physical fights—both at school and away from school— have also declined recently, as you can see in this graph from the report.

Hate-Related Words

The percent of students ages 12-18 who reported being the target of “hate-related words” dropped from 12 percent to 7 percent between 2001 and 2013. More students reported being the target of hate-related words related to race and ethnicity than gender or sexual orientation.

Check out the complete report for more data on school safety, climate, and discipline.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.