Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings from the School Survey on Crime and Safety
These reports present key findings on crime and violence in U.S. public schools, using data from the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS). SSOCS provides information about school crime-related topics from the school’s perspective, asking public school principals to report the frequency of violent incidents, such as physical attacks, robberies, and thefts in their schools. Portions of this survey also focus on programs, disciplinary actions, and policies implemented to prevent and reduce crime and violence in schools.
The survey was first administered in the spring of the 1999–2000 school year and repeated in school years 2003–04, 2005–06, 2007–08, 2009–10, and 2015–16. The 2015–16 survey was developed by the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education with the support of the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Selected Findings from the 2015-16 Survey
- During the 2015–16 school year, the rate of violent incidents 2 per 1,000 students was higher in middle schools (27 incidents) than in high schools (16 incidents) and primary schools (15 incidents).
- About 39 percent of schools reported at least one student threat of physical attack without a weapon, compared with 9 percent of schools that reported such a threat with a weapon.
- About 25 percent of schools reported at least one incident of the distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs, a higher percentage than that of the distribution, possession, or use of alcohol (13 percent) or prescription drugs (10 percent).
- A higher percentage of middle schools reported that student bullying occurred at school daily or at least once a week (22 percent) than did high schools (15 percent) or primary schools (8 percent ).
- Of the schools with a student enrollment size of 1,000 or more during the 2015–16 school year, 27 percent reported cyberbullying among students daily or at least once a week. This percentage is higher than in schools with lower enrollments. For example, 8 percent of schools with enrollments of less than 300 students reported cyberbullying.
- During the 2015–16 school year, 37 percent of disciplinary actions taken by schools in response to student involvement in the use or possession of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device involved an out-of-school suspension of students lasting 5 or more days. In comparison, 18 percent of disciplinary actions involved the transfer of students to specialized schools, 4 percent of disciplinary actions involved the removal of students with no continuing services for at least the remainder of the school year, and 41 percent of disciplinary actions were classified as other (suspensions for less than 5 days, detention, etc.).
- Higher percentages of schools located in suburbs (74 percent) and cities (73 percent) reported they had a formal program intended to prevent or reduce violence that included social emotional learning training for students than did schools located in towns (62 percent) and rural areas (51 percent).
- Higher percentages of schools reported that they had drilled students on lockdown procedures (95 percent) and evacuation procedures (92 percent) compared with shelter-in-place procedures (76 percent). Violent incidents include rape, sexual assault other than rape, physical attack or fight with or without a weapon, threat of physical attack with or without a weapon, and robbery with or without a weapon.
- A higher percentage of schools in which 1,000 or more students were enrolled during the 2015–16 school year reported having one or more School Resource Officers present once a week (77 percent) than schools in which 500–999 students were enrolled (47 percent), schools in which 300–499 students were enrolled (36 percent), and schools in which less than 300 students were enrolled (24 percent).
- A lower percentage of schools located in cities (36 percent) reported that one or more sworn law enforcement officers routinely carried a firearm while at school during the 2015–16 school year than schools located in towns (57 percent) and suburbs (45 percent). The same pattern was observed for sworn law enforcement officers who carried stun guns and who carried chemical or aerosol sprays.
- Among the factors that were reported to limit schools’ efforts to reduce or prevent crime “in a major way,” three factors were more likely to be reported than others: a lack of, or inadequate, alternative placements or programs for disruptive students (30 percent); inadequate funds (28 percent); and federal, state, or district policies on disciplining special education students (17 percent).
More information about the SSOCS survey and other SSOCS products can be found at https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ssocs/.