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Schools and Crime - Sources Of Information About School Crime

teachers national victimization survey

There are several main sources of information about school crime. One source consists of the informal observations of participants in the educational process, especially teachers and former teachers (for example, see Gerson). Since the schools are part of a major social institution involving millions of people in diverse roles, such observations are constantly issued in both personal and organizational reports. Teachers' unions have school safety committees that collect and tabulate the crime incidents in which teachers are victimized; they are especially interested in assaults on and robberies of teachers (United Federation of Teachers).

Boards of education also collect from principals and teachers information about school offenses, especially violent ones. Journalists are another source, since they visit schools; interview students, teachers, crime victims, and perpetrators; and report their conclusions in the media. Finally, there is systematic survey research. In 1976 the National Institute of Education of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare obtained questionnaire responses from 31,373 public-school students and 23,895 public-school teachers about their victimization experiences in 642 junior and senior high schools (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare). The results, published in a 1978 report to Congress, provided the first quantitative comparisons of the rates of robbery, assault, and larceny in public secondary schools across the United States. Somewhat surprisingly, students were victimized to about the same extent in large and small communities except for a somewhat higher rate in cities of a million or more; however, within large school systems some schools were much more dangerous than others. Teacher victimization, on the other hand, increased overall in proportion to the size of the community. The main deficiency of this landmark study was that it did not ask student respondents about their own violent behavior because raising this crucial issue would have jeopardized access to some school systems.

The Bureau of the Census administered the National Crime Survey (later renamed the National Crime Victimization Survey) in twenty-six large American cities in 1974 and 1975. Data were obtained on various types of victimization covering approximately ten thousand households in each city. These were later analyzed to provide information about offenses committed inside big-city schools (U.S. Department of Justice). Whereas the National Institute of Education study collected reports of personal victimization from both students and teachers, the twenty-six-city National Crime Survey also contained data about the victimization of school staff members other than teachers. However, these data were limited to school crime in very large cities. Several states have conducted statewide studies of school violence and vandalism, such as the Hawaii Crime Commission's analysis of six thousand questionnaires completed by principals, counselors, teachers, and students in 1979 (Hawaii Crime Commission).

The School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey collected national data on school crime in 1989 and 1995, as reported by students (Bastian and Taylor; Chandler et al.). Then, after a series of highly publicized school murders in 1997–1998, President Bill Clinton called on the Departments of Justice and Education to produce an annual report on school violence. One response of the statistical agencies of the two departments was to plan a more regularly conducted School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, beginning in 1999 and scheduled for every two years thereafter. Another is a new biennial school-based survey starting in 2000 that collects data on crime and discipline problems in U.S. schools. Still another is an annual statistical report on a broad range of indicators of school crime and safety that will supplement the annual report on school safety aimed at the general public; these reports were first produced in 1998 (Kaufman et al.).

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