IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Data on New Topics in the School Survey on Crime and Safety Shed Light on Emerging Areas of Interest

By Rachel Hansen, NCES; and Melissa Diliberti and Jana Kemp, AIR

For more than 15 years, the National Center for Education Statistics has administered the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) to provide timely, high-quality data on crime and safety in U.S. public schools. Information collected on SSOCS includes the frequency and nature of crime; disciplinary actions; crime prevention and the involvement of law enforcement; and challenges to reducing and preventing crime. Conducted with a nationally representative sample of public schools, the sixth, and most recent, administration of SSOCS took place during the 2015–16 school year. The first report highlighting key findings from that survey was released earlier this year.

For the 2015–16 survey, we included new and expanded questions on several topics to address emerging policy issues and to identify common practices in school safety, including:

  • School law enforcement, including questions on how schools involve sworn law enforcement officers in daily activities and whether schools outline the responsibilities of these officers at school. For instance, one new item asks whether law enforcement officers routinely wear a body camera, while another item asks if the school has a formalized policy defining officers’ use of firearms while at school;
  • Preventative measures used in public schools, including new questions on more recent security practices. For example, one new item asks schools to report whether they have a threat assessment team to identity students who might be a potential risk for violent or harmful behavior;
  • Preparations for crisis situations, such as whether schools drill students on the use of evacuation, lockdown, and shelter-in-place procedures. Other new items ask whether schools have panic buttons that directly connect to law enforcement and whether they have classroom doors that can be locked from the inside;
  • Student involvement in crime prevention, such as whether schools use peer mediation, student court, restorative circles, or social emotional learning training for students as part of a formal program intended to prevent or reduce violence; and
  • Staff training in discipline policies and practices, including those related to bullying and cyberbullying or strategies for students displaying signs of mental health disorders.

While previous administrations of SSOCS have asked schools to report the number of hate crimes that occurred during a given school year, the 2015–16 questionnaire asked schools to also report the bias (e.g., national origin or ethnicity, gender identity, etc.) that may have motivated these hate crimes. For the first time, the SSOCS questionnaire also asked schools to report the number of arrests that occurred at school.

In addition to these new and expanded questions, SSOCS continues to collect detailed information on schools’ safety practices, the number and type of crime incidents (e.g., sexual assault, physical attack or fight) that occur at school, and the extent to which schools involve law enforcement, parents, and other community groups in their efforts to reduce and prevent crime. To allow for trend comparisons, many items included on SSOCS questionnaires have remained consistent between survey administrations.

Due to the sensitive nature of SSOCS data, researchers must apply for a restricted-use license to access the SSOCS:2016 restricted-use data file. A public-use data file, with some variables removed, will be released in 2018. Public-use data files from previous SSOCS administrations are available on the SSOCS website and in DataLab

 

International Comparisons of School Crime and Safety

By Lauren Musu-Gillette

Indicators of School Crime and Safety provides a wealth of information on the safety of schools and colleges. The report is updated annually, which allows the public to compare many data points over time in the United States. But how does crime and safety for U.S. students compare to students from other countries? This year’s report helps put some of the U.S. data in an international context by comparing it to crime and safety indicators in other countries.

For example, 15 percent of U.S. fourth-grade students reported experiencing bullying at least once a month, which was lower than the international average (16 percent).[1] This percentage was also lower than the percentages in 16 countries, higher than the percentages in 21 countries, and not measurably different from the percentages in 10 countries. Similarly, the percentage of U.S. eight-grade students who reported experiencing bullying at least once a week was lower than the international average (7 vs. 8 percent), and was lower than the percentages in 13 countries. The U.S. percentage was higher than the percentages in 16 countries, and not measurably different from the percentages in 6 countries.


Percentage of eighth-grade students who reported experiencing bullying at least once a month during the school year, by country or other education system: 2015

1 Norway collected data from students in their 9th year of schooling rather than in grade 8 because year 1 in Norway is considered the equivalent of kindergarten.
NOTE: Most of the education systems represent complete countries, but some represent subnational entities; England, for example, is part of the United Kingdom. Data are based on rounded estimates.
SOURCE: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), 2015.


Data from this spotlight come from the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The primary purpose of TIMSS is to compare the mathematics and science performances of fourth- and eighth-grade students in participating countries and education systems. In addition to assessments, TIMSS provides questionnaires to students who participate, as well as to the teachers and principals of participating students. The 2015 TIMMS questionnaire collected data on students’ reports of bullying, teachers’ reports of whether the school environment is safe and orderly, and principals’ reports of school discipline issues for students in grades 4 and 8.

In the U.S., 7 percent of participating fourth-grade students attended schools that were less than safe and orderly, according to the data reported by their teachers.[2] This was higher than the international average of 4 percent and higher than the percentages in 22 countries, while being not measurably different from the percentages in 19 countries. About 13 percent of participating U.S. eighth-grade students reported attending schools that were less than safe and orderly; higher than the international average of 8 percent and higher than the percentages in 26 countries.

About 3 percent of U.S. fourth-graders and 2 percent of U.S. eighth-graders attended schools with moderate to severe discipline problems, according to data reported by their principals.[3] These percentages were lower than the international averages for fourth-graders and eighth-graders (10 percent and 11 percent, respectively).

For more detailed information, visit the spotlight in Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2016.

 

[1] The bullying questionnaire item asked, “During this school year, how often have other students from your school done any of the following things to you (including through texting and the Internet)?” These behaviors were listed after the question: Made fun of me or called me names; Left me out of games or activities; Spread lies about me; Stole something from me; Hit or hurt me (e.g., shoving, hitting, kicking); Made me do things I didn’t want to do; Shared embarrassing information about me; Threatened me; and Posted embarrassing things about me online (only asked of eighth-graders).

[2] The questionnaire item was, “Thinking about your current school, indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with each of the following statements,” and it was followed by these statements: This school is located in a safe neighborhood; I feel safe at this school; This school’s security policies and practices are sufficient; The students behave in an orderly manner; The students are respectful of the teachers; The students respect school property; This school has clear rules about student conduct; and This school’s rules are enforced in a clear and consistent manner.

[3] The questionnaire item asked, “To what degree is each of the following a problem among [fourth-grade/eighth-grade] students in your school?” These behaviors or occurrences were listed following the questionnaire item: Arriving late at school; Absenteeism (i.e., unjustified absences); Classroom disturbance; Cheating; Profanity; Vandalism; Theft; Intimidation or verbal abuse among students (including texting, emailing, etc.); Intimidation or verbal abuse of teachers or staff (including texting, emailing, etc.); Physical fights among students (only asked of fourth-grade principals); Physical injury to other students (only asked of eighth-grade principals); and Physical injury to teachers or staff (only asked of eighth-grade principals).

 

Bullying Down From a Decade Ago, but Unchanged Since 2013

By Lauren Musu-Gillette, Rachel Hansen, and Maura Spiegelman

Bullying prevention is a topic of perennial interest to policy makers, administrators, and educators, as well as students and their families. Data is a key component of measuring progress in a given area and NCES is committed to providing reliable and timely data on important topics such as bullying. NCES recently released a new report with data on bullying; Student Reports of Bullying and Cyber-Bullying: Results From the 2015 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey.

The School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey collects data on bullying by asking students ages 12–18 if they had been bullied at school during the school year. The percentage of students who reported being bullied at school during the school year decreased from 28 percent in 2005 to 21 percent in 2015. Similarly, the percentage of male students who reported being bullied at school decreased from 27 percent to 19 percent during the same time period. While the downward trend was not significant for female students, a smaller percentage reported being bullied in 2015 than in 2005 (29 vs. 23 percent). Additionally, the percentage of females who reported being bullied was higher than the percentage of males in most years that data were available (the exceptions were 2005 and 2009 when the percentages were not measurably different).  

However, as you can see in the graph below, most of the decline—overall and for males and females—occurred between 2007 and 2013. For the past two years, the percentages have been relatively unchanged.


Percentage of students, ages 12–18, who reported being bullied at school during the school year: Selected years, 2005 through 2015

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 2005 through 2015. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 230.40.


In 2015, higher percentages of Black students (25 percent) and White students (22 percent) reported being bullied in comparison to Hispanic students (17 percent). A greater percentage of students in 6th grade (31 percent) reported being bullied than students in grades 8–12, where reports of bullying ranged between 15 percent and 22 percent. No measurable differences were observed in the percentage of private and public school students who reported being bullied at school.

The frequency of bullying is another factor that is measured in the SCS. In 2015, about 67 percent of students who reported being bullied at school indicated that they were bullied once or twice in the school year. About one-third (33 percent) indicated that they were bullied at least once or twice a month, with 10 percent of these students reporting being bullied once or twice a week and 4 percent reporting they were bullied every day.

Additional data from the 2015 report can be found in the tables in the report. These tables contain additional information on bullying-related topics such as types of bullying, and fear and avoidance behaviors at school.

What Are the Characteristics of Students Who Have Ever Been Suspended or Expelled From School?

By Lauren Musu-Gillette

Suspensions and expulsions from school are often associated with negative academic outcomes, such as lower levels of achievement and higher dropout rates.[i] Using data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:2009), NCES recently published a new spotlight feature in Indicators of School Crime and Safety that shows that a greater percentage of students who are suspended or expelled have low engagement in school and are less academically successful.  

While there is a large body of research on this topic, this is the first time that the nationally representative HSLS study has been used to examine outcomes for and characteristics of suspended and expelled youth. The comparisons presented here cannot be used to establish a cause-and-effect relationship, but the longitudinal nature of the dataset could provide researchers an analytical path to understanding how these relationships have unfolded over time.

Research shows that students’ attitudes toward school are associated with their academic outcomes, and that schools with a supportive climate have lower rates of delinquency, including suspensions and expulsions.[ii] As part of the HSLS:2009 data collection, students reported on their school engagement[iii] and sense of school belonging[iv] in the fall of their ninth-grade year (2009). A greater percentage of students who were suspended or expelled between 2009 and 2012 were reported low school engagement entering high school. A similar pattern was seen with regard to a sense of belonging in school.


 Percentage of fall 2009 ninth-graders who were ever suspended or expelled through spring 2012, by school engagement and sense of school belonging: 2012

1A school engagement scale was constructed based on students' responses to questions about how frequently they went to class without homework done, without pencil or paper, without books, or late.

2A school belonging scale was constructed based on the extent to which students agreed or disagreed that they felt safe at school, that they felt proud of being part of the school, that there were always teachers or other adults at school they could talk to if they had a problem, that school was often a waste of time, and that getting good grades was important to them.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:2009).


The percentages of students who had ever been suspended or expelled were higher for those students with lower grade point averages (GPAs). Nearly half of students with a cumulative high school GPA below 2.0 had ever been suspended or expelled and just 11 percent had a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Additionally, as of 2013, a higher percentage of students who had not completed high school than of students who had completed high school had ever been suspended or expelled (54 vs. 17 percent).


Percentage of fall 2009 ninth-graders who were ever suspended or expelled through spring 2012, by cumulative high school grade point average and high school completion status: 2013

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:2009).


Differences in the demographic characteristics of students who had ever been suspended or expelled were similar to those found in other datasets, such as the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). Characteristics of youth in the HSLS study who were ever suspended or expelled include:

  • A higher percentage of males (26 percent) than of females (13 percent) were ever suspended or expelled.
  • A higher percentage of Black students (36 percent) than of Hispanic (21 percent), White (14 percent), and Asian students (6 percent) had ever been suspended or expelled.
  • A higher percentage of students of Two or more races (26 percent) and Hispanic students had ever been suspended or expelled than White students.
  • A lower percentage of Asian students than of students of any other race/ethnicity with available data had ever been suspended or expelled.

For more information on the characteristics of students who have ever been suspended or expelled, please see the full spotlight in Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2015.


[i] Christle, C.A., Nelson, C.M., and Jolivette, K. (2004). School Characteristics Related to the Use of Suspension. Education and the Treatment of Children, 27(4): 509-526.; Skiba, R.J., Michael, R.S., Nardo, A.C., and Peterson, R.L. (2002). The Color of Discipline: Sources of Gender and Racial Disproportionality in School Punishment. Urban Review, 34(4): 317-342.

[ii] Morrison, G.M., Robertson, L., Laurie, B., and Kelly, J. (2002). Protective Factors Related to Antisocial Behavior Trajectories.Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(3): 277-290; Christle, C.A., Jolivette, K., and Nelson, C.M. (2005). Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline: Identifying School Risk and Protective Factors for Youth Delinquency. Exceptionality, 13(2): 69-88.

[iii] School engagement measured how frequently students went to class without homework done, without pencil or paper, without books, or late.

[iv] Sense of school belonging was measured based on the extent to which students agreed or disagreed that they felt safe at school, that they felt proud of being part of the school, that there were always teachers or other adults at school they could talk to if they had a problem, that school was often a waste of time, and that getting good grades was important to them.

Number of Juvenile Offenders in Residential Placement Falls; Racial/Ethnic Gaps Persist

By Lauren Musu-Gillette and Joel McFarland

Juvenile offenders held in residential placement facilities often experience disruptions to their education as they pass in and out of traditional schooling. While most facilities provide middle- and high-school-level educational services, these services are generally not comparable to those available in their community schools.[i] Understanding the characteristics of juveniles in these facilities can help educators and policy-makers in finding the best ways to support education for these youth.  

Between 1997 and 2013, the number of youth in residential placement facilities fell by nearly 50 percent, from approximately 105,000 to just over 54,000.[ii] While the overall decline is informative, the residential placement rate (the number of juvenile offenders in residential facilities per 100,000 youth in the general population) provides a more comparable measurement across time because it accounts for population growth and demographic changes. The overall residential placement rate fell from 356 per 100,000 youth in 1997 to 173 per 100,000 in 2013. Following this trend, the residential placement rate for youth in various racial and ethnic subgroups also fell significantly as seen in the chart below.


Residential placement rate (number of juvenile offenders in residential placement facilities) per 100,000 juveniles, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1997 through 2013

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP).


Although residential placement rates declined for all racial/ethnic groups, disparities between racial/ethnic groups persist. In 2013, the residential placement rate for Black youth was 4.6 times the rate for White youth, and the rate for Hispanic youth was 1.7 times the rate for White youth. The American Indian/Alaska Native rate was 3.3 times the White rate, and the residential placement rate for Asian/Pacific Islander youth was approximately one-quarter of the rate for White youth (0.28).

The residential placement rate per 100,000 youth was also higher for Black males than for males or females of any other racial/ethnic group. Overall, Black males made up over one-third (35 percent) of all youth in residential placement in 2013. The rate of residential placement for Black males in 2013 was 804 per 100,000, which was 1.6 times the rate for American Indian/Alaska Native males, 2.7 times the rate for Hispanic males, 5 times the rate for White males, and more than 16 times the rate for Asian/Pacific Islander males.

While residential placement rates were lower for females than males from all racial/ethnic groups, there were also differences between racial/ethnic groups for females. The residential placement rate was highest for American Indian/Alaska Native females. This rate was 3.7 times the rate for Hispanic females, 4.8 times the rate for White females, and over 20 times the rate for Asian/Pacific Islander females. The rate for Black females was also more than twice the rate for Hispanic, White, and Asian/Pacific Islander females.


Residential placement rate (number of juvenile offenders in residential placement facilities) per 100,000 juveniles, by race/ethnicity and sex: 2013

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP).


Older youth made up a greater share of juveniles in residential placement than younger youth in 2013. A majority (69 percent) of juveniles in residential facilities were between the ages of 16 and 20; about 30 percent were between the ages of 13 and 15; and just 1 percent were age 12 or younger.

For more information on juvenile offenders in residential placement facilities, including data on the characteristics of those facilities, please see the full spotlight in Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2015.


[i] Hockenberry, S., Sickmund, M., and Sladky, A. (2013). Juvenile Residential Facility Census, 2010: Selected Findings. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved November 2015 from http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/241134.pdf; The Council of State Governments Justice Center. (2015). Locked Out: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth. New York: Author. Retrieved November 2015 from https://csgjusticecenter.org/youth/publications/locked-out-improving-educational-and-vocational-outcomes-for-incarcerated-youth/.

[ii] Data presented here come from the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP). The CJRP is a biennial survey of all secure and nonsecure residential placement facilities that house juvenile offenders, defined as persons younger than 21 who are held in a residential setting as a result of some contact with the justice system (i.e., being charged with or adjudicated for an offense). The CJRP provides a 1-day count of the number of youth in residential placement, as well as data on the characteristics of youth in these facilities and information about the facilities themselves.