Crime in our nation’s schools and college campuses has generally declined over the past two decades, according to Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2019, a recently released NCES report. This report highlights new analyses of mental health services provided by public schools and the prevalence of school and school neighborhood problems. The report also covers topics such as victimization, school conditions, safety and security measures at school, and criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions.
In 2018, students ages 12–18 experienced 836,100 total victimizations (i.e., thefts and nonfatal violent victimizations) at school and 410,200 total victimizations away from school. These figures represent a rate of 33 victimizations per 1,000 students at school and 16 victimizations per 1,000 students away from school. From 1992 to 2018, the total victimization rate and the rates of specific crimes—thefts and violent victimizations—declined for students ages 12–18, both at school and away from school.
This edition of Indicators of School Crime and Safety examines new data on school shootings. While such events represent a small subset of the violent incidents that occur at schools, they are of high concern to those interested in the safety of our nation’s students. In school year 2018–19, there were 66 reported school shootings with casualties at public and private elementary and secondary schools (29 school shootings with deaths and 37 school shootings with injuries only). Between 2000–01 and 2018–19, the number of school shootings with casualties per year ranged from 11 to 66.
Student bullying was the most commonly reported discipline problem among public schools over the past two decades. In school year 2017–18, about 14 percent of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students at least once a week, representing a decrease from the 29 percent of schools that reported student bullying in 1999–2000. In 2017–18, about 15 percent of public schools reported that cyberbullying had occurred among students at least once a week either at school or away from school.
This edition of the report also contains an analysis of new survey items that asked administrators at schools serving fifth-graders about issues in neighborhoods around their schools. In spring 2016, “crime in the neighborhood” and “selling or using drugs or excessive drinking in public” were the two most commonly reported school neighborhood problems. Thirty-four percent of fifth-graders attended schools where crime in the neighborhood was a problem, and 31 percent attended schools where selling or using drugs or excessive drinking in public was a problem. For the five school neighborhood problems examined in the report, fifth-graders attending schools where these were a big problem or somewhat of a problem consistently had lower scores in reading, mathematics, and science than did those attending schools where these were not a problem.
In addition to reporting data on student victimizations and school safety conditions, Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2019 also includes information on the programs and practices that schools had in place to promote a safe school. The new report includes a special analysis of mental health services provided by public schools. During the 2017–18 school year, 51 percent of public schools reported providing diagnostic mental health assessments to evaluate students for mental health disorders. Thirty-eight percent of public schools reported providing treatment to students for mental health disorders. When asked about whether certain factors limited their efforts to provide mental health services in a major way, 52 percent of public schools reported that inadequate funding was a major limitation, and 41 percent reported that inadequate access to licensed mental health professionals was a major limitation.
The report also looked at safety and security practices. In school year 2017–18, about 92 percent of public schools had a written plan in place for procedures to be performed in the event of an active shooter. Forty-six percent had a plan for procedures in the event of a pandemic disease. Between 2005–06 and 2017–18, the percentage of public schools that reported having one or more security staff present at school at least once a week increased from 42 to 61 percent.
Shedding light on postsecondary campus safety and security, the report shows that the number of reported forcible sex offenses on college campuses increased greatly while the overall number of reported criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions fell. Between 2001 and 2017, the number of reported forcible sex offenses on college campus increased 372 percent (from 2,200 to 10,400 offenses) while the overall number of criminal incidents reported on postsecondary campuses decreased by 31 percent (from 41,600 to 28,900 incidents). However, in the most recent data (between 2016 and 2017), the overall number of criminal incidents reported on postsecondary campuses increased by 2 percent. In 2017, a total of 958 hate crimes were reported on college campuses, of which the most common types were destruction, damage, and vandalism (437 incidents) and intimidation (385 incidents). Race, religion, and sexual orientation were the categories of motivating bias most frequently associated with these hate crimes.
To view the full Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2019 report, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2020063.
By Ke Wang, AIR