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Schools Make Progress on Safety, Report Says

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While large-scale and dramatic acts of school violence have drawn a public focus to safety concerns in U.S. schools, violent deaths at school remain statistically rare, a report released by the U.S. Departments of education and justice Tuesday says.

And rates of nonfatal criminal victimizations at school—such as theft, threats, and physical attacks—have declined in the last decade, according to the "Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2013" report.

In every school year between 1992-93 and 2010-11, the percentage of youth homicides occurring at school remained at less than 2 percent of the total number of youth homicides, and the percentage of youth suicides occurring at school remained at less than 1 percent of the total number of youth suicides, the report says.

"For parents, school staff, and policymakers to effectively address school crime, they need an accurate understanding of the extent, nature, and context of the problem. However, it is difficult to gauge the scope of crime and violence in schools given the large amount of attention devoted to isolated incidents of extreme school violence. Measuring progress toward safer schools requires establishing good indicators of the current state of school crime and safety across the nation and regularly updating and monitoring these indicators; this is the aim of Indicators of School Crime and Safety," the report says.

Researchers pulled data from various sources, including surveys of principals, teachers, and students.The most recent statistics from each indicator comes from the years between 2009 and 2012, which is notably before the most recent surge of school safety efforts that followed the December 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Conn. School safety experts have speculated that schools have had a sharp uptick in hiring school resource officers and security guards since those shootings, but federal statistics have not yet been released to confirm that assumption. According to the most recent data available about school safety efforts:

"Between the 2003-04 and 2011-12 school years, the percentage of public schools reporting that they required that students wear uniforms increased from 13 percent to 19 percent. Also, the percentages of public schools reporting the following security measures were higher in 2011-12 than in 2003-04: using security cameras to monitor the school; controlling access to buildings during school hours; and controlling access to grounds during school hours."

In the 2003-04 school year, 24.8 percent of schools reported having a daily presence of police or security personnel, the report says, and that figured climbed to 28.1 percent in 2011-12.

In 2009-10, about 74 percent of public schools recorded one or more violent incidents, 16 percent recorded one or more serious violent incidents, and 44 percent recorded one or more thefts.

Rates of nonfatal victimization at school for students 12-18 increased from 35 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2010 to 52 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2012, the report says. But victimizations away from school also increased during that time, and nonfatal incidents at school have decreased overall over the last ten years, the report says. Some other figures from the report:

  • "Of the 31 student, staff, and nonstudent school-associated violent deaths occurring between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011, there were 25 homicides and 6 suicides. During the same time period, there were 11 homicides and 3 suicides of school-age youth (ages 5-18) at school."
  • 12 who reported carrying a weapon anywhere at least once during the previous 30 days declined from 22 to 17 percent, and the percentage who reported carrying a weapon on school property declined from 12 percent to 5 percent."
  • "Between 1995 and 2011, the percentage of students ages 12-18 who reported being afraid of attack or harm at school decreased from 12 percent to 4 percent."

This year's report also includes new indicators related to criminal incidents at colleges and universities. From the report:

"In 2011, there were 30,400 criminal incidents on campus at public and private 2-year and 4-year postsecondary institutions that were reported to police and security agencies, representing a 5 percent decrease from 2010 (31,900). There was also a decrease in the number of on-campus crimes reported per 10,000 full-time-equivalent students, from 20.8 in 2010 to 19.7 in 2011."

You can read the whole report here.

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