The percentage of public schools experiencing incidents of crime was lower in 2005 than in 2003. In 2003, 65 percent of schools reported crimes to the police compared to 61 percent of schools in 2005, the latest year analyzed by the National Center for Education Statistics.
A new report, “Indicators of School Crime and Safety,” was issued Monday, the tenth in a series of annual publications produced jointly by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the U.S. Department of Justice. It provides the most recent data available on school crime and student safety.
In 2005, 86 percent of public schools responded to at least one incident of crime including violent crimes, theft or severe bullying. The same year, there were also 35 school-associated violent deaths reported by elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Homicides, suicides, legal and unintentional firearm-related deaths occurred were included in the count.
Researchers agree that violence affects the wellbeing and learning potential of all students. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, an estimated 160,000 students miss school every year because they fear being bullied.
Black and Hispanic students were more likely than White students to fear for their safety in 2005. Nine percent of Black students, 10 percent of Hispanic students and 4 percent of White students reported that they were afraid of an attack from another student.
Violence in the form of physical fights occurred most frequently on elementary, middle and high school campuses. Between 2003 and 2005, the percentage of students who reported being in a fight anywhere near or around school increased from 33 to 36 percent. In 2005, the percentage of students engaging in fights varied according to their race and ethnicity. Specifically, Asian students were less likely than students of all other racial/ ethnic groups to report being in a fight anywhere or on school property. Only 6 percent of Asian students reported being in a fight on school property, compared with 12 to 24 percent of students from other racial/ethnic groups.
Between 2003 and 2005, the percentage of Hispanic students who reported having been in a fight anywhere near or around school property increased from 36 to 41 percent. During the same period, the percentage of Asian students who reported having been in a fight on school property declined from 13 to 6 percent.
Hispanic students were more likely than White students to report being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in 2005. However, no measurable differences were found in the percentages of Black and White students, or Black and Hispanic students who reported being threatened or injured in this way.
The effects of violence, physical injury and psychological trauma reduce school attendance, impair concentration and detrimentally affect cognitive development the study found. In addition, fear of violence or abuse at school or on the way to school, can also prevent or reduce attendance and diminish a student’s ability to learn, one UNESCO report indicated.
–Michelle J. Nealy
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