School safety report shows mostly positive outcomes

School safety report shows mostly positive outcomes

(District of Columbia) Fewer teachers and students are reporting instances of bullying or other unsafe behaviors than 10 years ago, but stubborn trouble spots remain according to a federal school safety report.

Despite the overall positive findings in the National Center for Education Statistics’ latest study on school safety trends, researchers found that bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students was nearly double that of heterosexual students between 2014 and 2015.

The report also showed that alcohol consumption differed drastically, with Native American and Alaskan Native students far outpacing Black and Asian students.

“Our nation’s schools should be safe havens for teaching and learning, free of crime and violence,” researchers wrote. “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.”

Studies regularly show that bullying can negatively impact students’ grades, self-esteem, attendance and self-confidence. Students who are repeatedly bullied can become depressed or even suicidal, and those who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems and violence later in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many states have made efforts in recent years to address bullying by adopting zero-tolerance policies, implementing restorative justice practices to resolve underlying issues between students, or by boosting awareness by holding bullying prevention workshops in October–commonly celebrated in schools as Bullying Prevention Awareness month.

LGBT youth are three to four times as likely as their heterosexual peers to attempt suicide and 40 percent of transgender youth attempt suicide in their lifetime, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

A handful of states have adopted anti-bullying laws specifically protecting LGBT youth, often with measures addressing juvenile justice policies, homelessness, sexual education and conversion therapy in recent years.

Still, according to the latest school safety trends report, the percentage of self-identified LGBT high school students who reported being bullied on school property during the previous 12 months was nearly double that of their heterosexual peers. LGBT students also experienced cyber-bullying at twice the rate of other students, and reported having been threatened with a deadly weapon at twice the rate.

The national study–a joint effort by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics–examines data collected through surveyed including the National Crime Victimization Survey, Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the Campus Safety and Security Survey, the School Survey on Crime and Safety, the Schools and Staffing Survey, and EDFacts.

Researchers also found that in 2015, higher percentages of American Indian and Alaskan Native students, students of two or more races, white students and Hispanic students reported consuming alcohol on at least one day during the previous 30 days than Black or Asian students.

More than 45 percent of Native American and Alaskan Native high school students reported consuming alcohol within the past 30 days, compared to 24 percent of Black students and 13 percent of Asian students.

Also in 2015, 22 percent of high school students reported using marijuana at least one time during the previous 30 days, which was only 4 percent higher than the percentage reported in 1993.

Other highlights from the report show that:

  • About 15 percent of U.S. fourth-graders and 7 percent of U.S. eighth-graders reported experiencing bullying at least once a month;
  • The percentage of public schools that reported student bullying occurred at least once a week decreased from 29 percent in 1999–2000 to 16 percent in 2013–14;
  • The percentage of schools that reported the occurrence of student verbal abuse of teachers decreased from 13 percent in 1999–2000 to 5 percent in 2013–14;
  • The  percentage of students ages 12–18 who reported  that they had access to a loaded gun without adult permission, either at school or away from school, during the current school year decreased from 7 percent in 2007 to 4 percent in 2015; and
  • The percentage of high school students who reported being in a physical fight anywhere decreased from 42 percent in 1993 to 23 percent in 2015, and the percentage who reported being in a physical fight on school property also decreased during this period from 16 to 8 percent.