New research report shines light on school crime and safety

All California students have a right to feel welcomed and be free from emotional and physical harm at their public schools. School safety is one of the most important elements to consider in order to ensure that an environment is conducive to learning.

According to Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016, a newly released research report from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the last 20 years have seen a decline in school crime, yet there is still room for improvement in our nation’s K-12 schools, colleges and universities.

Presenting statistics from 2015, the most recent data available, and comparing those numbers to the last two decades, the NCES publication covers safety topics including bullying and cyber bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, and student access to and use of drugs and alcohol, among others. The report did not comment on why these documented trends in school safety and crime prevention are happening.

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

  • There has been an 82 percent decline in total victimization rates for students ages 12–18. In 2015, there were 33 victimizations reported per 1,000 students, compared to 181 per 1,000 students in 1992.
  • Students who said they were afraid of attack or harm at school dropped to 3 percent in 2015 from 12 percent in 1995.
  • Between 2005 and 2015, the number of students who disclosed being bullied at school during the school year fell from 28 to 21 percent.
  • There was a 9 percent decrease (from 20 to 11 percent) between 2001 and 2015 of students ages 12–18 who said gangs were present at their school.
  • The number of high school students (grades 9–12) who were recorded as being in a physical fight anywhere went down from 42 to 23 percent between 1993 and 2015, and the number of students who were recorded as being in a physical fight on school property fell from 16 to 8 percent during the same time frame.
  • Self-identified gay, lesbian and bisexual students reported being bullied on school property, cyber bullied, being in a physical fight, consuming alcohol and using marijuana at higher rates than that of their self-identified heterosexual peers.
  • Sixty-five percent of public schools nationwide had one or more incidents of violence during the 2013–14 school year, which the report estimates to be roughly 15 crimes per 1,000 students.
  • More results from the study can be viewed here.

While no crime is 100 percent preventable, there are actions school boards can take to foster a sense of security among students at school sites. As indicated in our recent publication Meeting California’s Challenge: Access, Opportunity, and Achievement: Key Ingredients for Success, providing students with physical, mental and environmental health supports are research-proven strategies that can improve student outcomes. CSBA has collected some other resources to aid trustees in their efforts to create safe schools:

CSBA Resources

Below is a list of relevant sample policies available through Gamut Online. Please log on to Gamut to view the policies. If you have any questions about these sample policies, please contact us at

  • BP 0450 Comprehensive Safety Plan
  • BP 3515.2 Disruptions
  • BP 1250 Visitors/Outsiders
  • BP 3515/3516 Campus Security
  • BP 5131.2 – Bullying

For more CSBA resources related to school safety, visit CSBA’s School Safety resource page and CSBA’s Bullying resource page

Other School Safety Resources

University of Colorado
Safe Communities, Safe Schools Planning Guide

National Association of School Psychologists
Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills 

National Association of Elementary School Principals
School Safety Resources

International Association of Chiefs of Police & Bureau of Justice
Assistance/U.S. DOJ
Guide for Preventing and Responding to School Violence