Lethal Violence in Schools
What Schools are Unsafe?

We asked students how safe they feel at school and how concerned they are about school shootings.

How safe do you feel? % of responses
Extremely safe 16
Very safe 24
Safe 33
Somewhat safe 24
Not at all safe 3

More than 25 percent of all respondents said their school is somewhat safe or not at all safe.

Forty percent said their schools are extremely safe (16 percent) or very safe (24 percent) and another 33 percent said their schools are safe. Twenty-four percent said their schools are somewhat safe and another 3 percent said their schools are not at all safe.

  • Younger students (grades 7 and 8) were more likely (30 percent) to say they are somewhat safe or not safe at school than those in grades 10 or 11 (25 percent) and those in grades 11 and 12 (26 percent).
  • Thirty-seven percent of the students who identified themselves as African-American said they were somewhat safe or not safe at school, compared to 31 percent of minority students, 28 percent of Hispanic students and 25 percent of white, non-Hispanic students.
  • Urban students and rural students were most likely to say they were not safe at school. Thirty-one percent of urban students and 29 percent of rural students said they were somewhat safe or not at all safe, compared to 23 percent of suburban students.
  • Those who said they get mostly A's in school are less likely to perceive their school as unsafe (18 percent) than those who get mostly B's and C's (29 percent) and those who get mostly D's and F's (35 percent).
  • Those who say have a high quality of life index also feel safer. Only 15 percent said their schools are somewhat safe or unsafe, compared to 24 percent of those with a medium quality of life index and 40 percent of those with a low quality of life index.
  • The more alienated students feel, the more likely they are to perceive their schools as unsafe. Students with a high alienation index are more than twice as likely as those with a low index to say their schools are not safe.
  • Those in neighborhoods with a lot of or some crime are three times more likely to say their schools are unsafe than those in neighborhoods with no crime.

How concerned are you about school shootings happening at your school?

% of responses

Extremely concerned
12
Very concerned
18
Concerned
17
Somewhat concerned
39
Not at all concerned
25

Only 25 percent of the students say they are not at all concerned about a shooting happening at their school.

  • Boys were less concerned about a shooting at their school than girls (30 percent cf. 19 percent).
  • 19 percent of the urban students said they were not concerned about school shootings, while 27 percent of the suburban and rural students said they were not concerned.
  • 40 percent of those students who said they did not feel safe at school were extremely concerned or very concerned about a shooting. Even among those who said they felt "extremely safe" or "very safe" at school, 17 percent were extremely concerned or very concerned about the possibility of a school shooting.

Four questions - "There are kids at my school who I think might shoot someone," "I know kids who could bring a gun to school if they wanted to," "I have heard another kid talking about shooting someone at school," and "I heard about someone who has made a plan to shoot someone at school" - tell us students' perceptions of the likelihood of a shooting at their schools. We assume that students who said they are only somewhat safe or not at all safe at school, and who responded affirmatively to the other four questions, were from schools where deadly violence is more likely to occur than those where students disagree with the statements.

Questions
% agreeing
There are kids at my school who I think might shoot someone.
37
I know kids who could bring a gun to school if they wanted to.
61
I have heard another kid talking about shooting somebody at school.
20
I heard about someone who has made a plan to shoot someone at school.
19

In examining the school and community characteristics for those students who appear to come from the more dangerous schools, we looked at geographic location, urban city and students' rating of the crime in their neighborhood, comparing the estimated marginal means of their responses.

Based on those comparisons, we found:

  • Schools in neighborhoods students perceive as unsafe probably are.
  • Schools in small towns/rural areas were generally rated as more dangerous by their students than were urban and suburban schools. Urban schools were rated more dangerous than suburban schools.
  • There are differences in ratings of school safety by region of the country, but those ratings also interacted with the urban city of the school.
  • For students who live in the East, suburban schools were rated as less dangerous than rural and urban schools.
  • For students who live in the South, the urban city of the school made little difference, although rural schools were rated more dangerous than suburban schools, and urban schools were considered the least dangerous.
  • For students in the Midwest, rural and urban schools were rated as more dangerous than suburban schools.
  • For students in the West, rural schools were rated as more dangerous than urban or suburban schools.
Region Most Dangerous
Moderately Dangerous
Least Dangerous
East Rural
Urban
Suburban
South Rural Suburban Urban
Midwest Rural Urban Suburban
West Rural (tie)Urban/Suburban (tie)Urban/Suburban
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