Education: K-12

Report Says Schools Make Progress on Safety

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, says a government report.

The "Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2013" report is the 16th annual report by the U.S. Education Department and Bureau of Justice Statistics. It aggregates information from various surveys, tracking schools through 2012. Snyder said school crime data mirror overall crime trends.

The report showed that most fatal crimes against students happen outside school buildings. During the 2010-2011 school year, 11 of 1,336 homicides that killed kids ages 5 to 18 took place in school. In 2010, three of the 1,456 suicides in that age group were in schools.

But in 2012, more students experienced other types of crimes in schools than they did elsewhere. Schools continue to see a decrease in gang activities, drug dealing, "student acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse" once a week. Almost 10 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being cyberbullied. Of those, 4 percent reported that another student had posted "hurtful information online." More Hispanic students than white students reported they were afraid of an attack at school.

As schools still seek to increase security by arming teachers, adding private security and increasing the number of "school resource officers" -- police officers trained to work with students, the report found that 28 percent of all schools reported security staff routinely carried firearms in the 2009-2010 school year, and 43 percent of schools said they had one or more security staffers at least once a week.

The report doesn't include data as recent as Newtown. But it does show schools increasing security in some ways, even before the massacre. Sixty-four percent of schools reported using security cameras to monitor potential threats, and 88 percent controlled access to their building by monitoring or locking doors during the school day. Forty-nine percent of schools had dress codes in the 2011-2012 school year, and 24 percent reported using "random dog sniffs" to check for drugs.

Poor schools had more metal detectors, ID requirements, dress codes, contraband sweeps and clear book bag rules than wealthier schools.

The presence of security staff in 43 percent of schools at least weekly in 2009-2010 was in line with previous surveys. Twenty-eight percent of public schools that year reported that a security officer routinely carried a firearm, compared with 34 percent in 2007-2008, and 31 percent in 2005-2006. Twelve percent of public primary schools, about half of middle schools and 63 percent of high schools had firearm-carrying security in 2009-2010.

The report is available at http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=5008

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