IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Public school safety and discipline: New data on practices, procedures, and violent incidents at school

By Lauren Musu-Gillette and Tom Snyder

Crime and violence at school not only affects the individuals involved, but also may disrupt the educational process and affect bystanders, the school itself, and the surrounding community [1]. There are many different components to measuring students’ safety at school, and NCES conducts and supports regular surveys on school crime and safety. Our new report, Public School Safety and Discipline, 2013-14 provides data on school safety practices and procedures, and also contains school reports of school crime incidents [2].

Improvements in monitoring and communication can help to ensure students, teachers, and parents have the information they need at the right moment. There have been increases in the use of some types of technology in schools. For example, the percentage of schools that used one or more security cameras to monitor the school in 2013-14 (75 percent) was higher than it was in 2009-10 (61 percent). The percentage of schools which had an electronic notification system that automatically notifies parents in case of a school-wide emergency was also higher in 2013-14 (82 percent) than in 2009-10 (63 percent). Further, the percentage of schools which had a structured anonymous threat reporting system (e.g. online submission, telephone hotline, or written submission via dropbox) was higher in 2013-14 (47 percent) than in 2009-10 (36 percent). The percentage of schools that prohibited student use of cell phones and text messaging was lower in 2013-14 (76 percent) than in 2009-10 (91 percent).

Another indication of the level of safety at school is the percentage of schools reporting that violent incidences occurred during the school year. It is important to note that the nature of the NCES data collections on school crime do not enable cause and effect linkages between activities designed to improve school safety and actual decreases in school crime.  Overall, the percentage of public schools reporting that a violent incident occurred at school [3] was lower in 2013-14 (65 percent) than in 2009-10 (74 percent) [4]. Also, the percentage of schools reporting a serious violent crime was lower in 2013-14 (13 percent) than in 2009-10 (16 percent).  In 2013-14, there were about 16 violent crimes per 1,000 students compared to 25 per 1,000 students in 2009-10.


Percentage of public schools reporting selected discipline problems that occurred at school at least once a week: 2009-10 and 2013-14

Figure. Percentage of public schools reporting selected discipline problems that occurred at school at least once a week: 2009-10 and 2013-14
NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school.
SOURCE: School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) 2009–10 and School Safety and Discipline 2013-14.

In addition to crimes, discipline problems at school are also of interest. Several types of discipline problems were reported at lower rates in 2013-14 than in 2009-10, including: student racial/ethnic tensions, student bullying, student sexual harassment of other students, and student harassment of other students based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  For example, 15.7 percent of schools reported that student bullying happens at least weekly in 2013-14, compared to 23.1 percent of schools in 2009-10. There were no measurable differences in the percentage of schools reporting, “widespread disorder in classrooms,” “student verbal abuse of teachers,” or “student acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse.”

In addition to this new report on school crime, NCES produces an annual summary report on school crime, Indicators of School Crime and Safety. Also, NCES has recently released a series of tabulations on bullying that showed bullying rates are lower in 2013 than they were in 2011


[1] Brookmeyer, K.A., Fanti, K.A., and Henrich, C.C. (2006). Schools, Parents, and Youth Violence: A Multilevel, Ecological Analysis. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 35(4):504–514.; Goldstein, S.E., Young, A., and Boyd, C. (2008). Relational Aggression at School: Associations With School Safety and Social Climate. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 37: 641–654.

[2] This blog compares estimates from Public School Safety and Discipline: 2013–14 and School Survey on Crime and Safety. Respondents to the Public School Safety and Discipline: 2013-14 were offered options of completing the survey on paper or online.  The School Survey on Crime and Safety was conducted as a mail survey with telephone follow-up.  Differences in these survey methods may impact inferences.

[3] “At school” was defined as activities happening in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at places that hold school-sponsored events or activities.

[4] Respondents were asked to report the number of incidents, not number of victims or offenders.

Measuring student safety: Bullying rates at school

By Lauren Musu-Gillette, Rachel Hansen, Kathryn Chandler, and Tom Snyder

Bullying remains a serious issue for students and their families, and efforts to reduce bullying concern policy makers, administrators, and educators. Measuring the extent of the problem, as well as tracking any progress towards reducing the prevalence of bullying, is of utmost importance and why NCES is committed to providing reliable and timely data on important topics such as bullying. NCES provides additional context for understanding this issue in our schools by publishing comparative data on different student groups, as well as data on changes over time in students’ reports of being bulled at school.

The School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey collects data on bullying by asking a nationally representative sample of students ages 12–18 if they had been bullied at school. In 2013, about 22 percent of students reported being bullied at school during the school year. This percentage was lower than the percentage reported in every prior survey year in which these data were collected (28 percent each in 2005, 2009, and 2011 and 32 percent in 2007).

Similarly, lower percentages of students reporting being bullied in 2013 were observed across some student characteristics. For example, in 2013 about 24 percent of female students reported being bullied at school, compared with 29 to 33 percent in prior survey years. The pattern for males was similar. The percentage of students who reported being bullied in 2013 was also lower than the percentages in all prior survey years for White and Black students. For Hispanic and Asian students, the percentage of students who reported being bullied in 2013 was lower than the percentages in both 2007 and 2009.


Percentage of students ages 12–18 who reported being bullied at school during the school year, by gender: Selected years, 2005 through 2013

This graph shows three lines representing the total percentage of students bullied at school in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013, as well as the percentage of males and females who report being bullied at school. The percentage goes up between 2005 and 2007 for all groups, it goes down between 2007 and 2009 for all groups, it goes up between 2009 and 2011 for all groups and it goes down between 2011 and 2013 for all groups. The line for females is higher than the total line and the line for males for all points in time. The line for males is lower than the other lines at all points in time.

NOTE: "At school" includes the school building, on school property, on a school bus, or going to and from school.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 2005 through 2013.


In 2013, a higher percentage of females than of males ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year (24 vs. 19 percent). A higher percentage of White students (24 percent) than of Hispanic students (19 percent) and Asian students (9 percent) reported being bullied at school. In addition, higher percentages of Black students (20 percent) and Hispanic students than of Asian students reported being bullied at school. Higher percentages of students in grades 6 through 11 than of students in grade 12 reported being bullied at school during the school year. In 2013, about 14 percent of 12th-graders reported being bullied at school, compared with 28 percent of 6th-graders, 26 percent of 7th-graders, 22 percent of 8th-graders, 23 percent of 9th-graders, 19 percent of 10th-graders, and 20 percent of 11th-graders.

Additional data from the 2013 School Crime Supplement are available in the Student Reports of Bullying and Cyberbullying: Results from the 2013 School Crime Supplement to the National Victimization Survey. Tables in this report contain further information on bullying-related topics such as frequency and types of bullying, cyber-bullying, and fear and avoidance behaviors at school.

Additional information on the definition of bullying, risk factors for bullying, and bullying prevention can be found on stopbullying.gov. The Department of Education, along with other federal agencies, sponsored stopbullying.gov to provide resources on bullying to school administrators, teachers, parents, and children.