School violence includes physical attacks, fights, and threats with or without weapons; robbery; sexual battery other than rape; and rapes that occur on school property both between students and directed at teachers. With more than two thirds of schools reporting violent incidents, time youth spend at school and the role of school in society make school violence significant in the study of interpersonal violence.
Incidents of school violence are not always reported to authorities, however, perhaps due to victim fear, related school policy, or offenders not being caught. Each of these factors leads to underestimates in official police reports. For example, whereas officials in 71% of the nation’s public schools report violence, only 36% report them to police. Similarly, when it comes to serious violence, 20% report incidents, but only 15% report them to police as well. School officials report more violence in middle and secondary schools than in elementary and more serious violent crimes at urban schools than at less urban or rural schools. Urban school officials are more likely to report them to police. Additionally, the percentage of schools reporting violence increases with the percentage of minority students, free or reduced-fee lunch, and number of students. School homicides, however, in spite of popular misconceptions and media accounts, have decreased since 1990. The School Crime and Safety Report shows a drop in averages from 31 between the 1992–1993 and 1998–1999 school years to 14 between those of 1999–2000 and 2001–2002.
The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) shows that overall violent crime victimization in schools decreased and that serious violence—rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault—have remained relatively stable from 1995 to 2003. In the same period, within each grade level and as grade level increases, violent crime victimization decreases. The 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) shows that fighting on school property also decreases by grade level during high school and overall between 1993 and 2003. The NCVS shows that violent victimization of teachers increases from primary to secondary schools and is higher in public than in private schools, is greater in urban than in suburban or rural schools, and is higher for male than for female teachers. Reports of being threatened or injured with a weapon at school decreases in high school, according to the YRBS.
Similarly, the NCVS shows that violent victimization is highest among males ages 12 to 14 and among urban school students. The YRBS indicates that student threats, injuries with weapons, and the likelihood of fighting on school property are higher among males. Racial and ethnic minorities and urban students are more likely to get into fights. Violent victimization rates are highest among Blacks and lowest among Hispanics.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. (2003). Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/index.htm
- DeVoe, J. F., Peter, K., Noonan, M., Snyder, T. D., & Baum, K. (2005). Indicators of school crime and safety: 2005 (No. NCES 2006–001/NCJ 210697). Washington, DC: U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, Government Printing Office.
- Gottfredson, D. C. (2001). Schools and delinquency. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
- Hinkle, W. G., & Henry, S. (Eds.). (2000, January). School violence. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 567.
- Sexton-Radek, K. (2005). Violence in schools: Issues, consequences, and expressions. Westport, CT: Praeger.
- S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1992–2003). National Crime Victimization Survey. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=dcdetail&iid=245
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