‘Serious Violent Incidents’ Spike To Highest Recorded Levels In K-12 Public Schools

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Brandon Poulter Contributor
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The number of “serious violent incidents” in American schools has rocketed from 54,400 in the 2017-2018 school year to 70,000 in the 2021-2022 school year, its highest number on record, according to a review of National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data.

The number of serious violent incidents, defined as rape, sexual assault, assaults with a weapon, threat of an attack with a weapon and robbery with a weapon, has been recorded since the 2003-2004 school year, according to NCES. Some blamed the pandemic for the rise in serious violent incidents in schools, and others pointed to restorative justice programs which aim to avoid punishing students who have committed wrongs. (RELATED: These Airlines Have Diversity ‘Representation’ Goals. Here’s Why They Might Be Illegal)

Sonja Shaw, President of Chino Valley Unified School District in California, said the COVID-19 pandemic played a part in the rise of serious violent incidents at schools.

“It disrupted routines and caused stress, which likely contributed to the rise in school violence,” Shaw told the DCNF.

“We isolated our kids. They weren’t allowed to go to school and in California, our governor prides himself in keeping our schools closed longer than anyone else,” Shaw continued.

Along with “serious violent incidents,” illegal drug possession, distribution or usage also went up from the 2017-2018 school year to 2021-2022 academic year, from 120,300 recorded incidents to 159,000.

The number of serious violent incidents increased 29% from the 2017-2018 school year to the 2021-2022 school year, according to NCES data. The rate of serious violent incidents per 1,000 students was about 0.81 and increased to nearly 1.4 in the 2021-2022 school year.

PEMBROKE PINES, FLORIDA – APRIL 19: A school bus is shown parked at a depot on April 19, 2023 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

There were approximately 49,400,000 children in school in the 2021-2022 fall semester, making the number of serious violent incidents per 1,000 students 1.42. There were approximately 50.7 million students in 2017, making the number of serious violent incidents per 1,000 students 1.07.

The number of schools where serious violent events occurred fluctuated from 17,500 in 2017-2018 to 16,800 in 2021-2022, according to NCES data.

But the number of “violent incidents” was slightly down, according to the NCES. Violent incidents include robberies without a weapon, physical attacks or fights without a weapon, threats of physical attack without a weapon and all serious violent incidents.

Over 857,500 violent incidents occurred in the 2021-2022 school year, down a little less than 1% from 864,900 violent incidents in the 2015-2016 school year, according to NCES data.

“One frequent concern we hear from parents is that when incidents happen in school – be it a fight or a drug overdose – families aren’t notified, often hearing about these problems days later from social media.” Nicki Neily, president of Parents Defending Education (PDE), told the DCNF.

“While schools assert that such information is withheld due to ‘privacy’ concerns, the lack of knowledge undermines a parent’s ability to discuss these issues with his or her children and to keep them safe,” Neily continued.

One expert expressed concerns with the way schools handle severe incidents and restorative justice programs. One California school district implementing restorative justice, for instance, encouraged its staff to send students who misbehaved to diversity, empathy and “implicit bias” trainings instead of instituting punishments in September 2022.

“Schools should not be using ‘restorative justice,’ which reduces the consequences for disruptive and violent behavior but instead involve parents in case-by-case responses to student misbehavior. The peers of students who remain in classrooms with disruptive students suffer both academically and in terms of their own safety when violent students are left in classrooms as part of restorative justice programs. This does not make parents or students feel safer,” Jonathan Butcher, education fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, told the DCNF.

“As for drugs, the same approach is needed, which is for school officials to clearly state the consequences for bringing illicit materials to school and have consistent enforcement of the rules, all while keeping parents involved and informed about what is going on regarding their child,” Butcher told the DCNF.

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