Saturday, January 19, 2013

How Safe Are America's Schools?

Rob Bligh, a retired lawyer and school board member with enough energy to argue tirelessly on behalf of public education, recently sent me these facts about the safety of America's public schools.
America's K-12 schools are among the very safest places for a child to be. A child is more likely to die from parental abuse or neglect than to die from all violent causes at school by a ratio of 66-to-1. Parental abuse and neglect kills 1,760 children in a typical year. On average, 26.5 children die each year from all school-associated violent causes. A school-associated violent death is any homicide, suicide, or weapons-related violent death in the United States in which the fatal injury occurred:
  1. on the property of a functioning public, private or parochial elementary or secondary school, Kindergarten through grade 12, (including alternative schools);
  2. on the way to or from regular sessions at such a school;
  3. while person was attending or was on the way to or from an official school-sponsored event;
  4. as an obvious direct result of school incidents, functions or activities, whether on or off school bus or vehicle or school property.
In 2005, for example, a total of 53,501 American children died from all causes. The average 26.5 annual school-associated child deaths amount to slightly less than 5 one hundredths of one percent of that total. If we really want to do something about child safety, we should not be telling school officials how to conduct themselves. Instead, we should ask everyone else in our society who is responsible for children to act more like school officials. The result would be a stunning increase in child safety.
The most authoritative study on this topic reported that between 1994 and 1999, there were a total of 172 homicides at schools. Oh, yeah, that was during the Clinton Administration ban on assault rifles, wasn't it.

Reference: Anderson, M. et al. (2001, December 5) School-Associated Violent Deaths in the United States, 1994-1999. JAMA, Vol. 286, No. 21.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University


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