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School violence by the numbers

School gangs, dangerous weapons, brutal murders. Headline-making news has parents believing they’re on the rise, but how common is violence in our children's schools?

By Manuel Rapada

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Wielding weapons at high school

7.4 — Percent of high school students that reported being threatened or injured with a weapon at school at least once in the last year, as of 2011

Only 7.4 percent? That may not seem like much until you realize that’s one in 13 kids. The report rate for high school injuries and threats involving weapons has
hovered around 8 percent since 1993, according to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The figure peaked in 2003 at 9.2 percent. In the same time period, however, a lower percentage of students reported bringing weapons to school. In 2011, 5.4 percent of students said they carried a weapon on school property, down from 11.8 percent in 1993.

Woe to Georgia and Arizona, which had the highest proportions of high school students reporting weapon-related incidents in 2011. Arkansas high schools, however, are becoming safer. In 2009, the Natural State’s high schools had the highest weapon incident report rate in the nation. Two years later, Arkansas was well below the national average at 6.3 percent.

And how are public schools discovering these weapons? Despite what you may hear, metal detectors remain a rarity. A 2009-2010 NCES survey found that only 5 percent of schools randomly check students with metal detectors – and less than 2 percent of schools overall require students to pass through one every day.

Manuel Rapada is an education journalist who divides his time between Chicago and San Francisco.