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School Violence

In the United States, an estimated 55 million students are enrolled in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. Another 15 million students attend colleges and universities across the country. While U.S. schools remain relatively safe, any amount of violence is unacceptable. Parents, teachers, and administrators expect schools to be safe havens of learning. Acts of violence can disrupt the learning process and have a negative effect on students, the school itself, and the broader community.

School violence is a subset of youth violence, a broader public health problem. Youth violence refers to harmful behaviors that may start early and continue into young adulthood. It includes bullying, slapping, punching, weapon use, and rape. Victims can suffer serious injury, significant social and emotional damage, or even death. The young person can be a victim, an offender, or a witness to the violence-or a combination of these. Detailed information about youth violence is available online.

Data Sources for School Violence

Indicators of School Crime and Safety
CDC contributes to the Department of Education's annual report on school crime and student safety. This report provides the most recent data available from many independent sources.

School Associated Violent Death Study
Since 1992, CDC has collaborated with the Departments of Education and Justice to monitor school-associated violent deaths at the national level. Information is collected from media databases, police, and school officials. A case is defined as a fatal injury (e.g., homicide or suicide) that occurs (1) on school property; (2) on the way to/from school; or (3) during or on the way to/from a school sponsored event. Only violent deaths associated with U.S. elementary and secondary schools are included. Data obtained in this study have identified trends and helped to inform preventive measures.

School Health Policies and Programs Study
The School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS) is the largest, most comprehensive assessment of school health policies and programs. It is conducted at state, district, school, and four classroom levels across the country. The study, sponsored by CDC, provides data to help improve school health policies and programs. SHPPS is conducted every six years; the first administration was in 1994 and the most recent, in 2006. The study assesses eight components of school health programs at the elementary, middle/junior, and senior high school levels that are related to adolescent risk behaviors, including violence. These components are health education; physical education; health services; mental health and social services; school policy and environment; food services; faculty and staff health promotion; and family and community involvement.

Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System
CDC monitors risk behaviors, such as violence, that contribute to the leading causes of death among youth in the United States. A nationwide survey is administered every two years in public and private high schools so that investigators can examine behaviors related to fighting, weapon carrying, dating and sexual violence, and suicide.

Risk and Protective Factors for Youth Violence

Research on youth violence has helped us better understand the factors that make some populations more likely to commit violent acts. Such risk factors increase the likelihood that a young person will become violent, but they may not be the direct cause of youth or school violence. Detailed information about the risk and protective factors associated with youth violence is available on-line.

Related CDC Research:

Prevention Resources

Academic Centers of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention
CDC funds 10 Academic Centers of Excellence (ACE) on Youth Violence Prevention to bring together academic and community resources to study and create lasting ways to prevent youth violence. ACEs are unique compared to traditional research centers because they work with community members and many educational, judicial, and social work partners to develop action plans, partnerships, and priorities to prevent youth violence and to learn about effective preventive strategies. Some ACE projects are directly related to school violence prevention, such as the evaluation of school-wide systems for enhancing positive social behaviors.

Best Practices of Youth Violence Prevention: A Sourcebook for Community Action
CDC's Best Practices of Youth Violence Prevention: A Sourcebook for Community Action is the first of its kind to look at the effectiveness of specific violence prevention practices in four key areas: parents and families; home visiting; social and conflict resolution skills; and mentoring.

Blueprints for Violence Prevention
CDC provided some funding for the Blueprints for Violence Prevention, which identified 11 model prevention programs that meet a strict scientific standard of program effectiveness. This standard is based upon an initial review by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado and a final review by a distinguished advisory board comprised of seven experts in the field of violence prevention. The 11 model programs, called "Blueprints," have been effective in reducing adolescent violent crime, aggression, delinquency, and substance abuse. To date, more than 600 programs have been reviewed. The Blueprints project has currently identified another 18 programs that show promise.

Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools
Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools, available from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, offers research-based practices designed to help school communities identify early warning signs and develop prevention, intervention, and crisis response plans. It is based on the work of an independent panel of experts from the fields of education, law enforcement, and mental health. This document provides a better understanding of the causes of violence and effective prevention strategies that will lead to safer schools.

Multisite Violence Prevention Project
CDC is collaborating with four universities to explore whether the largest reductions in school-based violence in middle schools result from a universal prevention program to change school norms related to aggression and violence that includes all middle school students and teachers in a specific grade; a selective program that is implemented only with students at the highest risk for perpetrating violence; or a program that combines both approaches.

School Health Guidelines to Prevent Unintentional Injuries and Violence
CDC's School Health Guidelines to Prevent Unintentional Injuries and Violence includes information about preventing adolescent violence, suicide, and unintentional injury; why it is important to focus on schools; and what schools do to prevent injuries and violence.

School Health Index
CDC's School Health Index (SHI) is a self-assessment and planning guide that enables schools to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their health promotion policies and programs. It also helps them develop an action plan for improving student health, and involves teachers, parents, students, and the community in improving school policies, programs, and services. The SHI covers five health topics: physical education and activity, healthy eating, tobacco use prevention, unintentional injuries and violence prevention, and asthma.

Effectiveness of Universal School-Based Programs for Preventing Violence
During 2004-2006, the Task Force on Community Preventive Services reviewed published scientific evidence on the effectiveness of universal school-based programs to reduce or prevent violent behavior. These programs have been shown to decrease rates of violence and aggressive behavior among school-age children. The effectiveness of the programs was demonstrated at all grade levels, and an independent meta-analysis confirmed and supplemented these findings.

Additional Online Resources

CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health

CDC's Division of Violence Prevention

Department of Education

Federal Bureau of Investigation, The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective

Health Resources and Services Administration, Stop Bullying Now Campaign

National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center


* Links to non-Federal organizations found at this site are provided solely as a service to our users. These links do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the Federal Government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content of the individual organization Web pages found at these links.

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Content Source: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention
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