How Safe Are America’s Schools?

The 10th anniversary of the Columbine massacre has brought renewed attention to violence in schools. The reality, in spite of the media attention, is that violence at schools across the country has been decreasing for a number of years.

However, violence in schools has not disappeared. Consider:

— Eighty-six percent of public schools in 2005-06 reported that one or more violent incidents, thefts of items valued at $10 or greater or other crimes had occurred — a rate of 46 crimes per 1,000 enrolled students.

— Almost a third of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied inside school.

— Nearly a quarter of teenagers reported the presence of gangs at their schools.

The statistics appear in a federal report, Indicators of School Crime and Safety published last month, the latest in a series on crime in schools nationwide. The annual reports, a combined effort of the Education and Justice departments, use the most recent statistics available. Federal authorities cull information from a handful of surveys and studies. For the 2009 report, much of the data came from the 2006-07 school year, when an estimated 55.5 million students were enrolled from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

It is important for parents to realize that extreme violence is very rare at school. The more prevalent type of crime [and abuse] is theft and bullying or peer harassment.