kitchen table math, the sequel: how much violence in American schools? Secret Service Report

Monday, December 17, 2012

how much violence in American schools? Secret Service Report

(Bullet-point summary below excerpt)
The Prevalence of Violence in American Schools

Public policy-makers, school administrators, police officials, and parents continue to search for explanations for the targeted violence that occurred at Columbine High School and other schools across the country, and seek assurance that similar incidents will not be repeated at educational institutions in their communities. While the quest for solutions to the problem of targeted school violence is of critical importance, reports from the Department of Education, the Justice Department, and other sources indicate that few children are likely to fall prey to life-threatening violence in school settings.

To put the problem of targeted school-based attacks in context, from 1993 to 1997, the odds that a child in grades 9-12 would be threatened or injured with a weapon in school were 7 to 8 percent, or 1 in 13 or 14; the odds of getting into a physical fight at school were 15 percent, or 1 in 7.7 In contrast, the odds that a child would die in school–by homicide or suicide–are, fortunately, no greater than 1 in 1 million. In 1998, students in grades 9-12 were the victims of 1.6 million thefts and 1.2 million nonfatal violent crimes, while in this same period 60 school-associated violent deaths were reported for this student population.

The findings of the Safe School Initiative’s extensive search for recorded incidents of targeted school-based attacks underscore the rarity of lethal attacks in school settings. The Department of Education reports that nearly 60 million children attend the nation’s 119,000+ schools. The combined efforts of the Secret Service and the Department of Education identified 37 incidents of targeted school-based attacks, committed by 41 individuals over a 25-year period.

Nevertheless, the impact of targeted school-based attacks cannot be measured in statistics alone. While it is clear that other kinds of problems in American schools are far more common than the targeted violence that has taken place in them, the high profile shootings that have occurred in schools over the past decade have resulted in increased fear among students, parents, and educators. School shootings are a rare, but significant, component of the problem of school violence. Each school-based attack has had a tremendous and lasting effect on the school in which it occurred, the surrounding community, and the nation as a whole. In the wake of these attacks, fear of future targeted school violence has become a driving force behind the efforts of school officials, law enforcement professionals, and parents to identify steps that can be taken to prevent incidents of violence in their schools.
Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States - 2004
OK, so boiling it down:
  • Odds of a high school student being threatened or injured with a weapon in school: 7 to 8 percent
  • Odds of a high school student getting into a physical fight at school: 15 percent
  • Odds of high school student being the victim of in-school theft: 2.7 percent
  • Odds of a high school student being the victim of a non-fatal violent crime: 2 percent
Two percent of all children in high school were the victims of violent crime --- ???!!!

That number needs to be zero.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Two percent of all children in high school were the victims of violent crime --- ???!!!

That number needs to be zero."


Beating up someone when the authorities decide that it was because of skin color is a "hate crime". Which makes it a crime, not just a fight at school.

How do we get this number to zero?

Note also that these sort of overall statistics are bad. For some high schools the odds of being threatened or injured with a weapon in school are *much* more than 7-8%. For others is is much lower. And it isn't like it is a mystery which schools are which.

Lumping all these schools together for these purposes is as bad as mixing MIT computer science graduates with Directional State University general studies graduates when talking about the expected increase in lifetime earnings for a college degree.

-Mark Roulo

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

A crime rate of zero is impossible to achieve, and even getting close may require such intrusive surveillance that the cure is worse than the disease.

I agree that the violent crime rate in schools is much too high, but "0" is a ludicrous goal. Pick something reasonable, like <100 violent crimes per million students.

The current homicide rate in schools (1 micromort per year) is very low. All causes death rate for ages 5 to 14 is 225 micromort/year, with motor vehicles the biggest contributor (54 micromort/year), and homicide around 15 micromort per year.

Homicide is a bigger problem for older students: 203 micromort/year for ages 15-24, but so are motor vehicle accidents (295 micromort/year), out of a total of 953 micromort/year.

http://www.allcountries.org/uscensus/129_death_and_death_rates_by_age.html

You'd get far more lives saved campaigning against cars than putting police in every school.

Anonymous said...

So ... we have about 15 murders per 1M kids aged 5 to 14 in total. And about 6% of those murders are committed in schools.

Kids are in school about 1,000 hours/year and a year has a bit less than 9,000 hours.

So the kids aged 5-14 are in more danger of being murdered per hour *outside* school than in it.

Even when some of these in-school murders are spectacular.

-Mark Roulo

Crimson Wife said...

Much of that crime is gang-related, and not just in cities any more.

I get accused of racism and classism for refusing to send my kids to public school. The zoned elementary school is okay from a safety standpoint, but it feeds into a middle and high school that both have gang problems. Students are forbidden from wearing red or blue because those are associated with the Nortenos and the Surrenos (or vice versa). I have no problem with my kids having diverse classmates, but I do have a BIG problem with gang members and their associates.

Catherine Johnson said...

Note also that these sort of overall statistics are bad. For some high schools the odds of being threatened or injured with a weapon in school are *much* more than 7-8%. For others is is much lower. And it isn't like it is a mystery which schools are which.

THAT MAKES IT WORSE!!!!!!

btw, this, in my opinion, is practically the entire reason houses cost what they cost in suburbs.

In the city, kids are getting terrorized & traumatized; in the suburbs people are going bankrupt trying to buy school safety for their children.

Catherine Johnson said...

I have no problem with my kids having diverse classmates, but I do have a BIG problem with gang members and their associates.

You said it.

Catherine Johnson said...

Pick something reasonable, like <100 violent crimes per million students.

OK, I pick <100 violent crimes per million students.

But in my day, that number was 0 where I lived.

Catherine Johnson said...

You'd get far more lives saved campaigning against cars than putting police in every school.

Self-driving cars are going to fix that.

(I hope!)

ChemProf said...

That 2% number is also interesting because it is very close to the violent crime rate in the UK (2034 crimes per 100,000 residents versus ~470 for the US). Interesting because the UK has the kind of gun control people are talking about, and under the best conditions possible (they are an island after all). Further, since their gun ban in 1997, the rate of gun crime in the UK has grown.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1223193/Culture-violence-Gun-crime-goes-89-decade.html

ChemProf said...

And I do agree the number should be lower, but don't see how we lower it without really expelling violent students, and that for a number of reasons (including disability issues) is not realistic right now.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'll read that article - thanks for the link.

Violent students should absolutely be 'expelled,' but that's not the way to look at it, and that's not what it should be.

The problem (one problem) is what Mary Damer calls "radical inclusion."

Mainstreaming and inclusion are painful when you're always the strange one, the not-invited-one, and so on and so forth. I'm not sure you even need to **have** bullying per se for a mainstreamed situation to be excruciating for some kids.

Everyone needs to be protected from potentially dangerous kids (and I'm reasonably confident we can figure out the 'potentially' part, though obviously that opens up several cans of worms).

But these kids ALSO need to be protected from the 'normal' kids.

They need a safe world of their own, and that safe world is not: you can be the loser with the black briefcase.

The National Academies book seems to go into this issue, so if I find something good in it, I'll post.

(Politically, of course, I understand that most people aren't going to see it my way.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Actually, I have to say one more thing.

Chris's Jesuit school had no bullying.

It wasn't because the kids were better than public school kids, and it wasn't because the school could expel kids. I won't go into the reasons why I know this at the moment.

Chris's school didn't have bullying because the school culture squashed bullying.

Early on, during Chris's first year there, I was friendly with the mother of a classic bully victim (probably Asperger's) who indeed was bullied within a few weeks of starting school.

The mom was, I guess, trying to handle things herself, and when the Dean of Students found out he called her on the carpet. She was supposed to have reported to him straightaway.

Within minutes of the Dean finding out, the bully came up the his victim in the hallway and said, "You ruined my life! The Dean says I can never talk to you again!" And the bully never bothered that boy again, ever.

That kid had all kinds of friends -- I could see it at school gatherings -- who knew he was different and joked about him being different but who had been made to understand by the grown-ups that he was different and he was theirs, one of them.

A high school, believe it or not, can create a culture without cliques.

Chris's school had all kinds of groups --- and some groups were obviously richer and more confident than others. (The 'Rye kids'!)

But there was ***no*** feeling of 'in-group' or 'out-group' or winner or loser.

I've never seen anything like it, but it was real.

I bet some of the charter schools are the same way.

kcab said...

he was different and he was theirs, one of them.

I think this is related to why kids who are far outside the norm are less likely to be bullied than those just a bit outside. Greater vulnerability makes it easier for them to be recognized as a member of the group who is in need of protection.

It's not just autism, I've seen it in groups where there is a much younger child too. Sometimes adults need to remind the older kids, but the bigger the difference the easier it is for at least some of the kids to remember the right behavior.

palisadesk said...

But there was ***no*** feeling of 'in-group' or 'out-group' or winner or loser.
I've never seen anything like it, but it was real.
I bet some of the charter schools are the same way


So are some regular public schools. It's my great good fortune to be working in one right now.

And Catherine is correct, it's all about school culture.

hush said...

I second @palisadesk's thoughts, and add that I attended a 3300-student Midwestern urban public magnet school in the 90s where the school culture eliminated bullying.

I credit the Principal and Vice Principal (they did *exactly* what Catherine describes the Dean of her child's school having done immediately when they discovered bullying happening in their space) as well as school counselors and coaches, for their strong leadership and their extremely proactive, personal, and in-your-face surveillance and reporting tactics. They knew every kid's name and nothing got past them. Everyone felt cared for in a tough love sort of atmosphere.

Catherine Johnson said...

hush - can you tell us more???

palisadesk??? do you feel like writing something longer???

and lgm??

I want to get all of these things 'up front' ---- because while the 'mystery' of Adam Lanza may not be solvable by schools (in which case I believe we have to 'harden' the school, install metal doors, have policemen on campus, etc.) ---- I do absolutely believe that we can have schools that are less likely, as opposed to more likely, to make troubled kids direct their anger at the school and its students ---

That sounds like blaming the victim, so I'm just going to APOLOGIZE and ask people's forbearance.

I don't have the right words.

hush said...

By way of example of "in-your-face reporting tactics" by the school's leadership team - I was once called into my counselor's office because another student was presumably identified by the adults as a kid who was having a rough time; he often looked sad, sat alone at lunch, wasn't involved in any activities - and he had apparently mentioned to this school counselor that I was a friend to him, and I think this prompted my counselor to ask me if I actually was his friend, and if I thought he had any friends? Had I ever seen anyone being rude to him? Was he being bullied? To my knowledge, he wasn't. She wanted all the info. Boy did that send a strong message to me: in this school, we can tell if we see people being mistreated. These adults actually care.

I revisited that school for my 15-year-reunion - and the Vice Principal (who is now the Principal) remembered me. He called out to me "Hey, Sister Maidenname!" He did that to almost everyone at our reunion - there were no nametags - we were all impressed. It was, and is, a high touch place where none of the kids are made to feel anonymous.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Catherine wrote "OK, I pick <100 violent crimes per million students.

But in my day, that number was 0 where I lived."

Maybe, or maybe you just didn't hear about the violent crimes. Certainly when I was growing up there were no news reports about violence in the suburban high schools. But I know that there was unreported violence, particularly among those who were heavy drinkers (in a dry town).