School crimes decline, US report says
Rate over 10 years found to fall by half; recent figures steady
WASHINGTON -- One in 35 students was a victim of violence or theft at school in 2003, about half the rate reported for 1993, the government said in a report issued yesterday.
The report, from the departments of Education and Justice, also said, however, that the school crime rate has shown no change since 2000.
There were about 28 crimes of rape, sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault for every 1,000 students in 2003, compared with 59 per 1,000 in 1993.
The study's researchers looked at crimes against the 26.4 million students who were 12 to 18 years old in 2003.
In 2002, the violent crime rate per 1,000 students was 24, according to the survey, but government researchers said there was no statistically significant change from 2002 to 2003 because the numbers are estimates from relatively small surveys.
''The level of precision isn't good enough to say whether there has been a change," said Thomas Snyder, an author of the report, who works at the Education Department.
Snyder also said, however, that there has been no change in the crime rate in several years. The report did not attempt to explain rises and falls.
The decline from the early 1990s is longstanding and large enough to overcome any doubts about comparing one year with the next, according to the report. Indeed, it mirrors the general trend in the United States, in which crime is reoprted to be at a 30-year low.
In 2003, there were about 738,700 violent crimes involving students at schools, and about 846,400 away from them. For rape, assault and robbery, the crime rates were at least 50 percent lower in school than away from school, for every year from 1992 to 2003.
Students were twice as likely to be victims of serious violent crimes away from school than at school, but were more likely to be victims of thefts at school than elsewhere, the study reported.
Students from poorer families were more likely to be victims of a violent crime at school than were the wealthier ones.
Away from school, richer students were more likely to be victims of theft than when they were at school.
Some school safety specialists have attributed the reported decline in the crime rate in the past decade to several factors.
These factors include:
The installation of metal detectors in many troubled schools.
The hiring of more people to serve as security personnel.
The implementation of programs aimed at curbing bullying, which can lead to more serious crimes.
A separate finding reported 17 homicides and five suicides in the 2001-02 school year, compared with 12 killings and five suicides in 2000-2001. By contrast, in the late 1990s there were two to three dozen killings a year, the result of a string of fatal shootings. The most notable killings were those of 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado by two heavily armed students in 1999.
Teachers are also targets of school crime. The report found that from 1999 through 2003 teachers were victims of an average of 183,000 crimes at school, 65,000 of them violent. That translates to an annual rate of 39 crimes per 1,000 teachers.
High school teachers were more than twice as likely as elementary school teachers to be victims of violent crime. This month, Ken Bruce, 48, an assistant principal at a high school in Jacksboro, Tenn., was shot to death by a student.