School Safety Study Shows Mixed Results
Fewer Fights, Weapons on School Property, but More Teens Fear for Their Safety
July 29, 2004 -- In 1999, the nation recoiled in horror as two
teens went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.,
killing a teacher and 12 students. The tragedy and similar events have left a
deep scar on America's schools. Despite massive initiatives to improve school
safety, a new report from the CDC says an increasing number of teens have
avoided class in recent years because they felt it was unsafe.
The concerns are not unwarranted; In 2003, one in three high
school students reported taking part in at least one physical fight. About one
in 16 admitted they carried a weapon on school property.
Yet, despite the onslaught of high-profile school violence,
most violence-related behavior among teens in general has decreased over the
last 12 years.
The CDC analyzed Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) taken from
more than 10,000 white, black, and Hispanic high school students in public and
The data showed that significantly fewer students were involved
in physical fights (42% in 1991 vs. 33% in 2003) both on and off school
grounds. The trend remained steady among ninth, 10th, and 12th graders.
Fighting among 11th graders dropped during the first eight years, then leveled
off. Despite the declines, no overall change was seen in children reporting
being injured as a result of physical violence.
While many students still admitted carrying weapons to school,
the number of teens doing so dropped considerably from 1991 to 2003, from 12%
The decreases seen in weapon carrying and physical fighting
(both on and off school grounds) appear to go hand-in-hand with a drop in the
national youth homicide rate, the CDC reports.
The analysis also revealed:
- Fewer fights on school property: 16% in 1993 vs. 13% in 2003
- Fewer students carried weapons: 26% in 1991 vs. 17% in 2003. A significant
decline was seen among blacks, Hispanics, and children in ninth grade.
- An increase in children reporting not going to school because of safety
concerns: 4% in 1991 vs. 5% in 2003
- A slight jump in the overall number of students being threatened or injured
with a weapon on school property, from 7% in 1993 to 9% in 2003, especially
among white and ninth-grade students
- A decrease in the number of black students being threatened or injured with
a weapon on school property in 1993-1999, followed by an increase in
Researchers say although the data suggest encouraging
reductions in certain violence-related areas, it is important for schools and
communities to establish and maintain physical and social environments that
promote safety and violence prevention. Curbing fights among teens and reducing
the number of weapons on school grounds are among the top the national health
objectives for 2010.