U.S. News & World Report
By Allie Bidwell,

The number of teachers who say they’ve been physically attacked by students is the highest yet.

Parents worried about their children’s safety while at school might not just be over-protective. While the number of school-related deaths are starting to decrease, incidents of theft and violence – including student violence against teachers – are on the rise in America’s schools, according to a federal report released Tuesday. And schools are beefing up security, including video cameras and armed security guards, as a result.

The National Center for Education Statistics released its annual “Indicators of School Crime and Safety” report, finding that during the 2010-11 school year – the most recent data available – there were 31 violent deaths – such as homicides and suicides involving students, staff members and others – on school campuses. That’s a decrease from a nearly 20-year high of 63 during the 2006-07 school year. But nonfatal incidents at school – such as theft and assault – appear to be on the rise, after several years of steady decline. In 2012, students between the ages of 12 and 18 experienced more than 1.3 million nonfatal victimizations, according to the report.

“Our nation’s schools should be safe havens for teaching and learning free of crime and violence,” the report says. “Any instance of crime or violence at school not only affects the individuals involved but also may disrupt the educational process and affect bystanders, the school itself, and the surrounding community.”

Although no official government data on school-associated violent deaths is yet available after the 2010-11 school year, media reports shed light on preliminary estimates for recent years. During the mass shooting incident that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, 20 children and six adults were killed. In the year since that incident, there were 17 other school-associated violent deaths, the report found.

Overall, more students experienced incidents of theft and violence at school than away from school. The crime rate works out to about 52 incidents per 1,000 students at school, compared with 35 incidents per 1,000 students in 2010. The rates of victimization in 2012 were also greater for males than females, as well as in urban or suburban areas than rural areas.

But students aren’t the only ones experiencing violence in schools. During the 2011-12 school year, more teachers reported being threatened with injury or said they were physically attacked by a student during the previous 12 months. Overall, 9 percent of teachers said they were threatened with injury – lower than the 12 percent who responded similarly in 1993-94, but higher than the 7 percent who said so in 2003-04 and 2007-08. And the 5 percent of teachers who said they had been physically attacked by a student was higher than in any previous survey year, the report found.

Today, more schools are controlling access to buildings during school hours as a security measure. In 2003-08, 81.5 percent of schools employed that method, compared with 88.2 percent in 2011-12. Nearly two-thirds of schools also report using security cameras, compared with just under one-third in 2003-04. More than one-quarter of schools also reported having security staff present on campus routinely carrying a firearm.

“Certain practices, such as locking or monitoring doors or gates, are intended to limit or control access to school campuses, while others, such as the use of metal detectors and security cameras, are intended to monitor or restrict students’ and visitors’ behavior on campus,” the report says.

The percentage of students who say they have observed certain security measures at their schools has also increased. In 2011, about 77 percent of students between the ages of 12 and 18 said they observed one or more security cameras in the school, compared with about 48 percent in 2003. Nearly two-thirds said they noticed locked entrance or exit doors during the day in 2011, compared with just more than half in 2003.

“For parents, school staff, and policymakers to effectively address school crime, they need an accurate understanding of the extent, nature, and context of the problem,” the report says. “However, it is difficult to gauge the scope of crime and violence in schools given the large amount of attention devoted to isolated incidents of extreme school violence.”