Student Victimization in U.S. Public Schools: Results from the 2005 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey

Victimization in schools is a major concern of educators, policymakers, administrators, and parents. Understanding the scope of student victimization, as well as factors associated with it, is an essential step in developing solutions to address the issues concerning school crime and violence. 

Crime at school has been a subject of national interest since the 1970s, when the Safe Schools Study was conducted by the National Institute of Education. The Safe Schools Study was a federally funded 3-year study commissioned to assess the level of violence and crime in American schools. Results from this study include the findings that theft was the most common type of crime at school and that violent criminal offenses tended to be more prevalent in inner-city schools than in suburban ones (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare 1978). 

This report provides estimates of student victimization and characteristics of victims and nonvictims using data from the 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey Basic Screen Questionnaire (NCVS-1), the NCVS Crime Incident Report (NCVS-2), and the School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the NCVS. NCVS is the nation’s primary source of information on crime victimization and the victims of crime. NCVS-2 collects data on victimizations that occur at school and those that occur in locations other than at school. SCS collects additional information about characteristics of school-related victimization on a national level. Created as a supplement to NCVS and co-designed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), SCS was conducted in 1989, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2005. This report includes data from 2005. 

Each month, the U.S. Census Bureau selects respondents for NCVS using a “rotating panel” design (see appendix A for additional information on sample design and data collection). Households within the U.S. are selected into the sample using a stratified, multistage cluster design and all age-eligible individuals in the households become part of the panel. Once in the panel, respondents are administered NCVS every 6 months to determine whether they have been victimized during the 6 months preceding the interview. The SCS questionnaire is administered after NCVS to persons in the sample household ages 12 through 18 who are enrolled in primary or secondary education programs leading to a high school diploma or who have been enrolled sometime during the 6 months prior to the interview.

This report includes only students who were ages 12 through 18 who were enrolled in 6th through 12th grade. Only students who were enrolled in school within 6 months prior to the survey and who were not homeschooled during that time are included in this analysis. A total of 6,297 responding students met these criteria. For the purposes of this report, victimization at school refers to incidents that occurred inside the school building, on school property, or on the way to or from school. School characteristics (including sector and security measures) are drawn from the 2005 SCS, while individual student characteristics (including sex, race/ethnicity, household income, grade level, academic grades, and urbanicity) are drawn from NCVS-1 variables appended to the SCS data table. Estimates of victimizations that occur at school, on school grounds, or on the way to or from school are obtained from the NCVS-2. See appendix D for the SCS instrument and appendix E for selected questions from the NCVS-2 instrument.