Overall, crimes at schools in the United States have fallen over the past decade, but these encouraging statistics, however, stand in contrast to a substantial increase in the number of forcible sex crimes at colleges and universities.
Postsecondary institutions reported a 34% decline in crimes between 2001 and 2013. Over that same period, forcible sex crimes rose by 120%. Researchers do not know whether the rise in sex crimes can be attributed to the fact that sex crimes are occurring more frequently or whether victims have become more willing to report the crimes. Of late, advocates and campaigns have been raising awareness about sexual assault and colleges' duty to combat it.
Compiled from multiple federal data sources by the U.S. Education and Justice departments, the report exhibits improvements on many measures since the 1990s. For example, as Emma Brown of The Washington Post reports, adolescents were 82% less likely to be the victim of crime at school in 2014 than they were in 1992. The rate of regular bullying also fell from 29% in 2000 to 16% in 2014.
"The data show that we have made progress – bullying is down, crime is down, but it's not enough," says Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. "There is still much policymakers should be concerned about. Incident levels are still much too high."
Rebecca Klein of The Huffington Post writes that this precipitous drop in crime could be attributed to an increase of school security over the past decade. In 1999, only 19% of public schools reported using security cameras; that statistic rose to 75% by 2014.
Despite the positive trends, schools are still taking precautionary measures to prepare for worst-case scenarios. Nearly 90% of schools report having official plans in place of a shooting or similar threats.
Interestingly, the report also shows falling levels of alcohol use among high school students. In 2013, 35% of high school students said that they'd had a drink within the previous 30 days, down from 48% in 1993. By contrast, marijuana use by high school students has risen over the same period. In 2013, 23% of students said that they had smoked pot at least one time in the previous 30 days, up from 18% in 1993.
CBS News reports that even before the report was issued, Ken Trump of the National School Safety and Security Services warned about reading too much into the federal statistics on school crime.
"Federal and state stats underestimate the extent of school crime, public perception tends to overstate it, and reality is somewhere in between," he said in a presentation to the Education Writers Association national conference in Boston. Indeed, about 1.3 million students were suspended for at least one full day of school for alcohol violations, violence, or weapons possession in 2014. In that same year, 3% of all student ages 12 to 18 said they were the victims of crimes at school.
For interested readers, the full, downloadable version of the report can be found here.