and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-97: Executive
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
NCES collects data to determine the frequency, seriousness, and incidence of violence in elementary and secondary schools. The following is a copy of the Executive Summary of the NCES School Violence Report (NCES publication 98-030). This report details the results of the Principal/School Disciplinarian Survey on School Violence, 1996-97. The full report can be found at: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs98/violence
Recent events have again focused the nation's attention on violence in U.S. public schools, an issue that has generated public concern and directed research for more than two decades.1Despite long-standing attention to the problem, there is a growing perception that not all public schools are safe for learning, and media reports highlight specific school-based violent acts.
The seventh goal of the National Education Goals states that by the year 2000, "all schools in America will be free of drugs and violence and the unauthorized presence of firearms and alcohol, and offer a disciplined environment that is conducive to learning." In response to this goal, the Congress passed the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1994, which provides for support of drug and violence prevention programs. As part of this legislation, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is required to collect data to determine the "frequency, seriousness, and incidence of violence in elementary and secondary schools." NCES responded to this requirement by commissioning a survey, the Principal/School Disciplinarian Survey on School Violence, 1996-97, the results of which are detailed in this report.
The school violence survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 1,234 regular public elementary, middle, and secondary schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the spring and summer of 1997. The survey requested information on four topics:
Principals' (or school disciplinarians') perceptions about the seriousness of a variety of discipline issues in their schools
The types of disciplinary actions schools took against students for serious offenses
The kinds of security measures and violence prevention programs present in public schools
The choice of survey respondent
The survey sample size
How Serious A Problem Was Crime And Violence In U.S. Public Schools In The 1996-1997 School Year?
More than half of U.S. public schools reported experiencing at least one crime incident in school year 1996-97; and 1 in 10 schools reported at least one serious violent crime during that school year (table 7).
Ten percent of all public schools experienced one or more serious violent crimes (defined as murder, rape or other type of sexual battery, suicide, physical attack or fight with a weapon, or robbery) that were reported to law enforcement officials during the 1996-97 school year.
Physical attacks or fights without a weapon led the list of reported crimes in public schools with about 190,000 such incidents reported for 1996-97 (figure 1) About 116,000 incidents of theft or larceny were reported along with 98,000 incidents of vandalism. These less serious or nonviolent crimes were more common than serious violent crimes, with schools reporting about 4,000 incidents of rape or other type of sexual battery, 7,000 robberies, and 11,000 incidents of physical attacks or fights in which weapons were used.
While 43 percent of public schools reported no incidents of crime in 1996-97, 37 percent reported from one to five crimes; and about 20 percent reported six crimes or more (figure 3).
Crime and violence were more of a problem in middle and high schools than in elementary schools. Middle schools and high schools were more likely than elementary schools to report that they had experienced one or more incidents of any crime and one or more incidents of serious violent crime (table 7).
Four percent of elementary schools reported one or more serious violent crimes compared with 19 percent of middle and 21 percent of high schools.
Of the less serious or nonviolent crimes, the largest ratios of crimes per 100,000 students were found in middle and high schools compared with elementary schools. This was true for physical attacks or fights without a weapon, theft/larceny, and vandalism (table 10).
In general, elementary schools reported proportionately fewer incidents of serious violent crime. They reported lower rates of physical attacks or fights with a weapon and rape or other type of sexual battery.
While elementary schools reported lower ratios of robbery compared with high schools, they were not significantly different from middle schools.
Principals in high schools and middle schools were more likely than elementary school principals to rate at least one discipline issue as a serious problem in their schools. Thirty-seven percent of high school principals reported at least one serious discipline problem in their schools compared with 18 percent of middle school principals and 8 percent of elementary school principals (table 12).
In both 1990-91 and 1996-97, the three discipline issues most frequently rated as serious or moderate problems by principals were student tardiness, student absenteeism or class cutting, and physical conflicts among students (table 13).
Most public schools reported having zero-tolerance policies toward serious offenses (table 19).
To discover what types of security were employed, schools were asked whether visitors must sign in, if there was a closed campus policy for most students during lunch, if access to the school building was controlled, if access to school grounds was controlled, if there had been one or more drug sweeps, whether the school used random metal detector checks on students, or whether students must pass through metal detectors daily (table 22). Schools were also asked about the presence of police or other law enforcement at the school (table 23).
Eleven percent of schools had instituted moderate security measures such as a full-time guard, or a part-time guard with restricted access to the school, or metal detectors with no guards.
84 percent of public schools reported having a low level of security-restricted access to their schools but no guards or metal detectors.
Three percent reported that none of the security measures asked about in the survey were used.
Fifty percent of public schools with violence-prevention programs indicated that all or almost all of their students participated in these programs (figure 12 and table 30).
 U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, "Violent Schools - Safe Schools: The Safe School Study Report to the Congress," December 1977