We as a nation make a lot of noise about violence in our schools. That’s not a criticism–it’s a topic that deserves a lot of noise. It’s arguably a good thing that the media machine goes on red alert for every phoned-in threat and DEFCON 5 over actual violence. It keeps a bright light pointed at the systems we have for preventing those threats.
But if we’re talking numbers, our schools are actually becoming safer, both in reality and in student perceptions. In 1995, four years before Columbine, surveys found that 12% of students felt afraid of attack or harm during the school year. By 2013, that percentage had dropped to 4%.
Actual violence is in decline as well. Rates of theft, violence, and serious violent crime at schools are all lower today than they were in 1995. Since 2007, the ratio of bullied students has dropped from one in three to one in five, and fewer than 10% of students today will be involved in a single violent altercation their entire student career.
Violent death at school, never a common event, is a minuscule possibility. In the 2011-2012 school year, across the country there were 20 violent student deaths in school property, and five of those were suicide. Quick math puts those odds at approximately one in 2.5 million.
What this does not mean is that we should relax any vigilance on the part of parents, educators, or even students with regards to violence. The improvement is promising, but the goal is for all of those statistics to one day zero out. Zero bullying. Zero fistfights. Zero violent deaths. And that goal means that every single instance of violence in our schools still deserves that media blitz.