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National Data

Students who missed school in the last 30 days because they did not feel safe:

    • All: 7.1%
    • African American: 7.9%
    • Hispanic: 9.8%
    • White: 5.6%

And according to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES)’s report, Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2013, in 2011, approximately 4 percent of students ages 12–18 reported that they were afraid of attack or harm at school, compared to 2 percent of students who reported that they were afraid of attack or harm away from school.

Data Source

Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2013 (YRBS). The survey is conducted every two years, and the data is available for all fifty states and about two dozen major cities.

Summary

The CDC developed the YRBS to monitor the extent of risky behaviors among young people. The survey covers a large number of topics, from drug use to physical activity, and provides results that are representative of public and private high school students.

How to Use the Data

The YRBS is the most reliable source of comparable state-by-state data on youth health-related behaviors. It enables you to compare your students to national, state, and local averages. The program also provides data on long-term trends and the well-being of various student subgroups.

How the details were measured

The data is reported as the percent of high school students who did not go to school for at least a day in the thirty days prior to the survey because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school. The data can be broken down by race, income, gender, and grade level.

Limitations of the data

On the YRBS, students report on their own experiences with sex, alcohol, and drugs. While the CDC has taken significant steps to ensure the accuracy of the data, the degree of under- or over-reporting is hard to determine. Moreover, student reporting of feeling safe is a relative indicator: What some students might consider safe might not be safe to others. Another limitation of the survey is that it only students who were currently in school responded. Students who were not in school because they felt unsafe may be missing from the data.

Key Questions to Ask

What school safety data is available at the local level?

Under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, states are required to publicly report data from anonymous school surveys in addition to  incidences of violence and drug-related offenses. This data is currently only available from state agencies.

Are there other indicators of school safety?

Student opinion surveys of school safety are important because they show how young people think and feel about their school’s climate. But the data should be evaluated in conjunction with other indicators of school safety, like the number of expulsions and the percent of students who report getting into fights.

What are the results among student subgroups?

Different student groups report very different views about school safety. For example, the YRBS shows that almost twice as many Black students as white students did not go to school in the thirty days prior to the survey because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school. When examining this data, you should make sure that it is broken down by race and income level.

Learn More

The YRBS contains a great deal of data on school safety and provides information on the percent of students who:

  • Were in a physical fight on school property.
  • Had their property stolen or deliberately damaged on school property.
  • Carried a weapon on school property.
  • Were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.
  • Were offered, sold, or given an illegal drug on school property.

The data is available for all fifty states and two dozen major cities and can be broken down by race, income, gender, and grade-level.

There are many other sources for school safety data. As part of the School Survey on Crime and Safety, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) collects extensive national data on crime and violence in schools. NCES also has state-by-state data in its Report on the Implementation of the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 In the States and Outlying Areas. The report provides the number of students expelled for possession of a firearm in school. CDW-G, an information technology company, also recently surveyed a nationally representative sample of school districts and graded their security preparedness against a set of school safety benchmarks. More information on that report can be found on the CDW-G Web site.

For more information on teacher and student perceptions of the climate in their urban schools, check out Where We Teach and Where We Learn, two reports by the National School Boards Association’s Council of Urban Boards of Education.

Additional Resources

Demonstrating success:

Pennsylvania district communicates that ‘Every Child Counts’—Sometimes outside events can affect student performance. This district consistently gives its students the message that personal growth matters as much as individual academic growth and test scores.