Violence in Schools Is Down

Published September 1, 2000

Despite the widespread public perception of schools as unsafe and violent places, children in school or traveling to or from school are a third less likely to become victims of violence than when they are away from school, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Of the more than 2,000 children who die in acts of violence each year, just 34 died in school-related incidents in the 1997-98 school year, according to the Department of Education’s Annual Report on School Safety. Yet a Scripps Howard News Service poll conducted last year showed that more than a third of the nation has the impression that students are less safe in schools than either walking the streets or at the shopping mall.

“Of all the places in their community, [school] is the safest place for parents to have their children,” said U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley.

In fact, schools are becoming more safe rather than less safe, according to a 1999 report of school incidents in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

  • Students in a physical fight on school property, 1993-97: down 9 percent;
  • High school students in a physical fight, 1991-97: down 14 percent;
  • Students injured in a physical fight, 1991-97: down 20 percent;
  • Students carrying a gun, 1993-97: down 25 percent;
  • Students carrying a weapon on school property, 1993-97: down 28 percent.

However, the drop in violence has been even greater outside of schools. For example, firearm deaths among children and adolescents under age 20 were down a remarkable 35 percent from 1994 to 1998, according to a report released in July by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics.

Among the top concerns of school administrators, security and school infrastructure ranked fourth and fifth, after budget issues, test results, and technology incorporation, according to a recent survey by American School & University and Access Control & Security Systems Integration magazines.