DataBank Indicator

Unsafe At School

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Fewer than one in twenty-five adolescents feared attack at school, or on the way to and from school, in 2013, compared with about one in nine in 1995.

Importance

When students have fears about personal safety at school, or on the way to and from school, they may miss days of class.[1] Perpetrators and victims of school violence are more likely to experience health problems, social and emotional difficulties, and/or poorer academic performance.[2],[3] Moderate to high levels of school violence diminish the likelihood that students will graduate from high school or attend a four-year college.[4]

Additionally, fear at school can contribute to an unhealthy school climate,[5] and can lead to negative student behaviors. For example, one study found that students who witnessed violence at school were more likely to perpetrate violent behaviors.[6] Students who are fearful may also feel they need to protect themselves through actions that can actually increase the likelihood of violence, such as carrying weapons at school.[7]

Trends

38_fig1The percentage of youth, ages 12 to 18, who feared attack at school, or on the way to and from school, fell by half between 1995 and 2001, from 12 percent in 1995 to six percent in 2001. The proportion remained steady through 2005, before decreasing to four percent in 2013. (Figure 1)

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[8]

38_fig2In 2013, Hispanic students were more likely to fear attack at school than were white students. In 1995, 21 percent of Hispanic and 20 percent of black teenagers feared attack, compared with 8 percent of white teenagers. In 2001, the proportions were 11, 9, and 5 percent, respectively. (Figure 2) 

Differences by Age

38_fig3In 2013, students in twelfth grade were less likely than their younger peers to fear for their safety at school or on the way to and from school. Two percent of 12th-graders feared for their safety, compared with five percent of 6th- graders and four percent of 7th-graders. (Figure 3)

Differences by School Type and Location

In 2013, students in urban, suburban, and rural areas were all equally likely to report fearing attacks at school or while traveling to and from school. However, as recently as 2011, students in urban areas were more likely than their peers to fear attack. (Appendix 1)

State and Local Estimates

Estimates for a related indicator (whether a student stayed home from school for at least one day in the last 30 days because he or she felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school) are available for selected states and metropolitan areas from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).

International Estimates

None available.

National Goals

The Healthy People 2020 initiative has set a goal for increasing the proportion of adolescents whose parents consider them
to be safe at school from 86.4 percent in 2007 to 95 percent in 2020. Additionally, there is a goal to decrease the proportion of public schools with a serious violent incident from 17.2 percent in 2007-08 to 15.5 percent in 2020, and to reduce weapon carrying by students on school property.

Additional information is available here. (goal AH-8, AH-10) and here. (goal IVP 36)

Related Indicators

Definition

Students were asked if, during the last six months, they had feared being attacked at school or on the way to and from school.

Data Source

National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). Digest of Education Statistics: Table 230.70 Percentage of students ages 12-18 who reported being afraid of attack or harm, by location and selected student and school characteristics: Selected years, 1995-2013. U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d14/tables/dt14_230.70.asp?current=yes

Raw Data Source

U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey

http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=dcdetail&iid=245

Appendix 1 – Percentage of Students Ages 12 to 18 Who Feared Attack or Harm at School or on the Way to and From School: Selected Years, 1995-2013

1995 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013
Total 11.8 7.3 6.4 6.1 6.4 5.3 4.2 3.7 3.5
Male 10.8 6.5 6.4 5.3 6.1 4.6 3.7 3.7 3.1
Female 12.8 8.2 6.4 6.9 6.7 6.0 4.8 3.8 4.0
Race and Hispanic Origin
White, non-Hispanic 8.1 5.0 4.9 4.1 4.6 4.2 3.3 3.0 2.6
Black, non-Hispanic 20.3 13.5 8.9 10.7 9.2 8.6 7.0 4.9 4.6
Hispanic 20.9 11.7 10.6 9.5 10.3 7.1 4.9 4.8 4.9
Other, non-Hispanic2 13.5 6.7 6.4 5.0 5.7
Grade
6th 14.3 10.9 10.6 10.0 9.5 9.9 6.4 5.6 4.7
7th 15.3 9.5 9.2 8.2 9.1 6.7 6.2 4.5 4.3
8th 13.0 8.1 7.6 6.3 7.1 4.6 3.5 4.6 3.3
9th 11.6 7.1 5.5 6.3 5.9 5.5 4.6 4.2 3.4
10th 11.0 7.1 5.0 4.4 5.5 5.2 4.6 3.9 4.4
11th 8.9 4.8 4.8 4.7 4.6 3.1 3.3 1.8 2.6
12th 7.8 4.8 2.9 3.7 3.3 3.1 2.2 2.0
1995 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013
Urbanicity
Urban 18.4 11.6 9.7 9.5 10.5 7.1 6.9  5.2 4.5
Suburban 9.8 6.2 4.8 4.8 4.7 4.4 3.0  3.1 3.0
Rural 8.6 4.8 6.0 4.7 5.1 4.9 3.9  3.0 3.3
Control
Public 12.2 7.7 6.6 6.4 6.6 5.5 4.4  3.9 3.5
Private 7.3 3.6 4.6 3.0 3.8
‡ Reporting standards not met. Standard errors are at least 30 percent of the estimates.

1 In 1995 and 1999 students reported fear of “attack or harm” at school or on the way to or from school in the past 6 months. In 2001 onward students reported fear of “attack or threat of attack” at school or on the way to or from school in the past 6 months.

2 From 2003 onward, data for ‘Other’ also include those students who identified as more than one race.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). Digest of Education Statistics: Table 230.70 Percentage of students ages 12-18 who reported being afraid of attack or harm, by location and selected student and school characteristics: Selected years, 1995-2013. U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d14/tables/dt14_230.70.asp?current=yes

Endnotes


[1]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Youth risk behavior surveillance – United States [Electronic Version]. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 57, 1-131 from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/ss/ss5704.pdf.

[2]Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2009). Indicators of school crime and safety: 2009 [Electronic Version]. Retrieved December 29, 2009 from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/iscs09.pdf.

[3]Nansel, T. R., Craig, W., Overpeck, M. D., Saluja, G. W., & Ruan, J. (2004). Cross-national consistency in the relationship
between bullying behaviors and psychosocial adjustment. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 158, 730-736.

[4]Grogger, J. T. (1997). Local violence, educational attainment, and teacher pay. Cambridge, Mass: National Bureau of Economic Research.

[5]Hernandez, T., & Seem, S. (2004). A safe school climate: A systematic approach and the school counselor. Professional School Counseling, 7(4), 1096-2409.

[6]Flannery, D. F., Wester, K. R., & Singer, M. I. (2004). Impact of exposure to violence in school on child and adolescent mental health behavior. Journal of Community Psychology, 32(5), 559-573.

[7]Gladden, R. M. (2002). Reducing school violence: Strengthening student programs and addressing the role of school organizations. Review of Research in Education, 26, 263-299.

[8]Hispanics may be any race. However, estimates for whites and blacks in this report do not include Hispanics.

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank.(2015) Unsafe at school. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=unsafe-at-school

Last updated: December 2015

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