Crime stats show troubling trend at nation’s schools

Crime stats show troubling trend at nation’s schools

(District of Columbia) A general decline in serious crime on K-12 school campuses nationwide appears to be reversing, perhaps reflecting an upswing in violence in some of the nation’s largest cities.

According to new federal crime statistics, there were 32 violent deaths at elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. from July 2010 to June 2011 – the smallest number in almost two decades. But the following year ending in June 2012 – the most recent year for which data is available – a total of 45 deaths were recorded.

That number is still well below the 63 logged in 2006-07, the most since national school crime indicators began being collected in 1992.

Meanwhile, cases of sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault have also trended upward after reaching a low in 2009-10 when about 48 incidents per 1,000 students were reported. In 2013, data showed a total crime victimization rate of 55 per 1,000 students.

Finally, the percentage of teachers who said they had been threatened with attack – or actually attacked – by a student  has been slowly increasing since 2003 when less than 4 percent reported being physically attacked and about 6 percent reported being threatened.

In the 2011-12 school year, more than 5 percent of teachers reported being attacked and close to 10 percent said they had been threatened.

The report is an annual survey that is produced jointly by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Part of the rationale for the review came in response to the big increase in all categories of crime and especially violent crime committed by and to juveniles. But research also shows that “any instance of crime or 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,” report authors said.

In its most recent report on national crime rates, the Justice Department reported a 17 percent increase in 2011 in violent victimization for U.S. residents age 12 or older. They attributed the sharp rise to a 22 percent increase in aggravated and simple assault from the prior year.

The types of crimes categorized in the K-12 report include:

  • Victimization, which can run from simple assault to serious violent crime like rape, sexual assault and robbery, and aggravated assault.
  • Teacher injury
  • Bullying and cyber-bullying
  • On-campus fights
  • Students with weapons and their availability
  • Student use of drugs and alcohol
  • Student perceptions of personal safety at school

Although the numbers are at least somewhat disturbing, officials noted that the nation’s schools remain a far safer environment than the rest of society.

For instance, there were 1,199 homicides and 1,568 suicides of youth away from school in 2011-12. But only 15 homicides and 5 suicides recorded on school grounds during the same time period.

Between 1992 and 2000, schools were also safer when it came to victimized crime, but since then the trend has been that those types of crimes committed against school-age victims are occurring more frequently on campus as opposed to elsewhere. From 2010 to 2013, the rate of victimized crime on school grounds jumped from 17 percent to 37 percent per 1,000 students. Away from school, the rate went from 94 per 1,000 students in 1992 to 15 per 1,000 students in 2013.

Threats and attacks on teachers seem to vary from state to state and district to district with further distinctions between school types. In 2011-12, the percentage of elementary teachers reporting physical attack was higher than that of secondary teachers – 8 percent vs. 3 percent. Perhaps not surprising, a higher rate was recorded among public schools than private – 10 percent vs. 3 percent for threats; 6 percent vs. 3 percent for physical attacks.

Threats on teachers by state ranged from 5 percent in Oregon to 18 percent in Louisiana. Physical attacks went from 3 percent in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, and Tennessee to 11 percent in Wisconsin.

Other key findings:

  • In 2013, among students ages 12–18, there were about 1,420,900 nonfatal victimizations at school, which included 454,900 theft victimizations and 966,000 violent victimizations.
  • During the 2009–10 school year, 85 percent of public schools recorded that one or more crime incidents had taken place at school, amounting to an estimated 1.9 million crimes or a rate of 40 crimes per 1,000 public school students.
  • In 2013, about 22 percent of students age 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year. Higher percentages of females than of males reported that they were made fun of, called names, or insulted (15 vs. 13 percent); were the subject of rumors (17 vs. 10 percent); and were excluded from activities on purpose (5 vs. 4 percent). In contrast, a higher percentage of males (7 percent) than of females (5 percent) reported being pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on.
  • The percentage of teachers who reported that student misbehavior interfered with their teaching fluctuated between 1993-94 and 2011-12; however, the percentage of teachers reporting that student tardiness and class cutting  interfered with their teaching increased over this time period (from 25 to 35 percent).

Between 1993-94 and 2011-12, the percentage of teachers who reported that school rules were enforced by other teachers fluctuated between 64 and 73 percent, and the percentage who reported that rules were enforced by the principal fluctuated between 82 and 89 percent.

  • In 2013, about 25 percent of students in grades 9-12 reported that they had been in a physical fight anywhere during the previous 12 months, and 8 percent reported that they had been in a physical fight on school property during this time period.
  • The percentage of students who reported being afraid of attack or harm at school or on the way to and from school decreased from 12 percent in 1995 to 3 percent in 2013, and the percentage of students who reported being afraid of attack or harm away from school decreased from 6 percent in 1999 to 3 percent in 2013.