School Safety

Violent Incidents Up on K-12 Campuses

Nearly a million violent incidents took place in U.S. public schools during the 2017-2018 school year. Of the 962,300 physical attacks, threats, sexual assaults, rapes and robberies, less than a quarter (24 percent) took place in majority minority schools, where the minority enrollment was 50 percent or more. The number of violent incidents rose from 15.5 percent in the 2015-2016 school year to 21.3 percent for 2017-2018.

Those are some of the initial findings in the latest look at school crime and safety shared by the National Center for Education Statistics in its report, "Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools." The results represented 2,762 schools that responded to surveying done between February and July 2018.

The analysis also found that two-thirds of schools (66 percent) reported at least one physical attack or fight without a weapon, while three percent reported an attack with a weapon.

During 2017-2018, an estimated 3,600 events took place involving the possession of a firearm or explosive device at schools. Another 69,100 incidents involved a knife or other sharp object, representing 38 percent of schools. Illegal drugs surfaced in 25 percent of schools, alcohol played a part at 13 percent and prescription drugs showed up in 9.5 percent. These numbers have remained basically unchanged since the previous reporting cycle.

Bullying turned out to be a bigger problem in middle school, where 28 percent of schools reported that it occurred at least once a week, compared to high schools (16 percent) or primary schools (nine percent). However, cyberbullying was a problem at both middle schools and high schools (33 and 30 percent, respectively).

In school crisis planning, written plans primarily focused on three topics: natural disasters (94 percent), active shooters (92 percent) and bomb threats or incidents (91 percent). Eighty-five percent of schools also had a plan in place for handling "post-crisis reunification of students with their families." Student drills on the use of emergency procedures focused on lockdowns (96 percent), evacuations (93 percent) and sheltering-in-place (83 percent).

When schools were asked "whether certain factors limited their efforts to reduce or prevent crime 'in a major way,'" the top picks were "inadequate funds," designated by a third of respondents (36 percent) and a "lack of alternative placements or programs for disruptive students" (34 percent). Among those least cited were "likelihood of complaints from parents" (4.5 percent), "lack of teacher support for school policies" (2.9 percent) and "teacher fear of student retaliation" (2.8 percent).

The complete report is openly available on the NCES website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.