Schools Were Getting Safer Until 2010

Another week, another school shooting. After Tuesday’s Oregon high school shooting, America learned that there have been 74 school shootings in the past 18 months. So, about once a week. (Granted, not all of these were school massacres, some of them were the result of “arguments, accidents and alleged gang activities and drug deals,” according to CNN, but still.)

Interestingly, however, elementary and secondary school safety in general has actually been improving, or at least it was until 2010.

According to a piece by Joy Resmovits at the Huffington Post:

The rate of non-fatal incidents in which students felt victimized at school decreased to 35 per 1,000 students in 2010, from 181 per 1,000 students in 1992, according to the 2013 School Crime and Safety Report. The rate rose to 52 per 1,000 students in 2012, the report found. Any type of school crime, the report noted, increases the likelihood of dropouts, teacher turnover and student transfers.

The reason for these trends is a little unclear. As Resmovits points out, there is intense “disagreement over best ways to keep students safe. Some advocates and the gun lobby want more law enforcement in schools. [Others] argue that increased policing leads to discrimination and propose behavioral interventions and teacher training.”

We have, however, dramatically increased school security since 1999’s Columbine massacre, which probably had something to do with making schools safer, at least according to the report’s “rate of non-fatal incidents” measure (which is maybe not exactly the worry parents have about violence in schools lately). Some 43 percent of schools report having security staff in place.

And what accounts for the increase since 2010? Well, again, this is just conjecture here, but it seems like the recent policy focus on bullying in schools could have caused an increase in reported incidents, not necessarily because school behavior is any different, but because schools are recording and tracking bullying now as an “incident” worthy of addressing.

Read the report here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer