Research

Campus Safety: Crime and Bullying Plummet as Incarcerations of Youth Drop in Half

The results aren’t rosy for all, however, as discipline continues to impact poor, black and Hispanic students disproportionately.

Reports of bullying in American schools have dropped nearly in half from the turn of the century. Overall, violent victimizations were down even more substantially — 82 percent from 1992 to 2014, according to a report released today by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Bullying Drops; Teachers Verbally Abused Less
The decline in reports of bullying comes in a time of increased awareness of bullying and increased access to anonymous reporting tools. Nevertheless, the percentage of schools reporting at least one bullying incident per week dropped from 29 percent in the 1999–2000 school year to 16 percent in the 2013–2014 school year, according to the report.

This coincides as well with an apparent increase in respectful behavior toward teachers. In 1999–2000, 13 percent of schools reported that teachers were verbally abused by students. In 2013–2014, that figure sank to just 5 percent.

Further, students report feeling much safer now than they did in the past. In 1995, 12 percent of U.S. students reported being afraid of being attacked or experiencing harm at school, while in 2013 that figure dropped to 3 percent. Still, in 2013, some 5 percent of students reported that they “avoided at least one school activity or class or one or more places in school during the previous school year because they feared being attacked or harmed.”

Other bullying findings included:

  • Verbal slurs against students by other students based on sexual orientation or gender identity decreased, with 3 percent of schools in 2009-2010 reporting such incidents versus 1 percent in 2013–2014;

  • 22 percent of students aged 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year in 2013, substantially lower than any other year for which there are data; and

  • 7 percent of students aged 12–18 reported being “cyberbullied” (9 percent female versus 5 percent male).

Victimization Declines, Though Still Higher in Rural Areas
Non-fatal victimizations in schools declined sharply as well. According to the report, non-fatal victimizations (theft, assault, etc.) occurred at a rate of 181 per 1,000 students in 1992. By 2014, that figure fell to the low double-digits at just 33 in 1,000 students. Total non-fatal victimizations in 2014 were 850,100, of which 486,400 were violent victimizations, with “serious violent victimizations” occurring at a rate of 4 per 1,000 students — exactly half of the rate of serious violent victimizations in 1992.

Non-fatal victimization rates were substantially higher in rural areas than suburban and urban — 53 per 1,000 students in rural areas versus 28 per 1,000 in suburban and 32 in 1,000 for urban — but still well below overall 1992 levels.

There were 53 violent deaths at schools in the 2012–2013 school year (which includes deaths on campus as well as on the way to and from campus) involving students, staff, faculty and visitors. Thirty-eight of those deaths were school-aged youth, of which 31 were homicides, six suicides and one death through “legal intervention.” Those school-related homicides amounted to 2.6 percent of total homicides committed against school-aged youth in that period (1.186 total). That homicide figure has been fairly consistent since 1992–1993 (when there were 34 homicides against school-aged youth at school), though much higher than the low of 11 in 2009–2010.

Discipline and Punish
As bullying and victimizations have declined, so have disciplinary actions and incarceration in residential placement facilities. “Residential placement facilities” is an umbrella term for various types of juvenile detention and alternative treatment facilities, including detention centers, long-term secure facilities, group homes, shelters, camps and diagnostic centers. Data do not include juveniles held in adult detention or correctional facilities.

According to the report, the one-day count of school-age youth held in residential placement facilities fell from 105,000 in 1997 to 54,000 in 2013. (“One-day count” is one way to measure the standing number of juveniles in custody.) That steep drop appears to be consistent across ethnic lines; however, black and Hispanic youth continue to be held in custody at a much greater rate than other ethnic groups. Black males were held in custody at a rate of 804 per 100,000 students versus 496 for American Indian/Alaska Native males, 296 for Hispanic males and 162 per 100,000 for white males. The overall average for males was 290 per 100,000.

For females, American Indian/Alaska Native were held at a higher rate than other groups: 167 per 100,000. Compare that with 113 for black females, 45 for Hispanic females and 35 for white females.

Asians and Pacific Islanders had the lowest rate of incarceration in residential placement facilities than all other groups: 49 out of 100,000 for males and eight out of 100,000 for females.

Ethnic disparities — along with socioeconomic disparities — were also apparent in school disciplinary actions. For example, according to the report, in 2012, some 35.6 percent of black ninth-graders black reported being suspended or expelled at some point, compared with 21.3 percent of Hispanic students and 14.4 percent of white students.

There was also a correlation between family socioeconomic status and suspension. Those whose parents were more wealthy or better educated were far less likely to be suspended or expelled than students from lower brackets. For example, those whose families were in the “highest socioeconomic quintile” were a third as likely to be suspended or expelled than those in the lowest quintile. And those whose parents had a master’s degree or higher were about a third as likely to be suspended or expelled as those whose parents had only a high school education or less.

Campus Safety: Technology
The report also measured penetration of security devices on school campuses. According to NCES, the percentage of schools equipped with surveillance cameras has tripled since the turn of the century.

Nineteen percent of public schools in the 1999–2000 school year had security cameras installed. That climbed to 75 percent in 2013–2014. The percentage was much lower in primary schools (67 percent) than high/combined schools (89 percent) and middle schools (84 percent).

Building access control measures are also up, with 93 percent of schools reporting that they use access control in their buildings in 2013–2014 versus 75 percent in 1999–2000.

A full 88 percent of public schools have a written plan for the event of a school shooting, and 70 percent of those reported drilling their students on the plan.

Students are well aware of these security measures. According to the report: “In 2013, nearly all students ages 12–18 reported that they observed the use of at least one of the selected security measures at their schools. Most students ages 12–18 reported that their schools had a written code of student conduct and a requirement that visitors sign in (96 percent each). Approximately 90 percent of students reported the presence of school staff (other than security guards or assigned police officers) or other adults supervising the hallway, 77 percent reported the presence of one or more security cameras to monitor the school, and 76 percent reported locked entrance or exit doors during the day. Eleven percent of students reported the use of metal detectors at their schools, representing the least observed of the selected safety and security measures.”

The full report can be found at nces.ed.gov.

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