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Report: Despite recent tragedies, schools are getting safer

The Parkland shooting was a tragic reminder of the danger of gun violence in our schools and communities. Now a new federal report suggests that, despite recent high-profile incidents, public schools overall are getting safer.

The latest National Center for Education Statistics’ Indicators of School Crime and Safety report, which examines available school safety data from 2015-2016, presents some positive indicators.

1. The presence of professional school security staff has grown over the last decade

Fifty-seven percent of public schools reported having school security staff in the 2015-2016 school year. That’s a 15 percent increase compared with the 2005-2006 school year. More schools also have sworn law enforcement officers (48 percent vs. 36 percent, respectively) and school resource officers (42 percent vs 32 percent, respectively).

2. Faculty training on classroom management and safety has increased

During the 2015-2016 school year, 84 percent of public schools provided training on classroom management to teachers and aides, according to the report. That’s a 12 percent increase compared with 2005-2006, when 72 percent of schools offered similar training programs. Specifically, 76 percent of schools offered training to help recognize bullying among students; 48 percent offered training to help recognize and identify warning signs of violence in students; and 30 percent offered training to help recognize signs of substance abuse among students.

3. Bullying in public schools is declining

The percentage of public schools that reported regular bullying (at least one incident per week) decreased by more than half–from 29 percent in the 1999-2000 school year to 12 percent in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the report. Student verbal abuse of teachers also decreased during the same time period–from 13 percent to 5 percent. The bullying rate was higher in middle schools (22 percent) in the 2015-2016 school year than it was in high schools (15 percent) and elementary schools (8 percent), according to the report.

4. Incidents of violence and theft are also on the decline

Victimizations–incidents of theft and nonfatal attacks in schools–fell among students ages 12-18, from 1992 and 2016, according to the report. Between 1995 and 2015, the percentage of students ages 12-18 who reported being victimized in the previous six months decreased from 10 percent to 3 percent. Additionally, the percentage of students who reported being victimized in school decreased among males and females, as well as white, black, and hispanic students.

While school safety is and should be a primary area of concern, many in education have also cautioned that recent tragic events should not obscure the fact that public schools are typically among the safest places for students and families.

Changing parents’ and students’ perceptions on safety may be easier said than done. But it’s important for school districts to not only improve school safety protocols, but also to communicate why their schools are and will remain safe.

What do you think about this latest report? Do these trends ring true in your school or district? Tell us in the comments.