Report Finds Kids Safer at School


Thursday, October 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite recent headline-making occurrences of school violence, the number of such incidents is falling and children are more likely to be hurt off-campus, the government reported Thursday.

``America's schools are safe places,'' said Attorney General Janet Reno, releasing the report by the Education and Justice departments. It said schoolchildren are twice as likely to be victims of serious violent crime away from school.

In the 1997-98 school year, 42 of the 3,000 children who were murdered or committed suicide, or 1.4 percent, died at school, the report said. In the same year, 253,000 students ages 12 to 18 were victims of serious crimes such as rape and robbery at school, compared with 550,000 children who were victims of such crimes away from school.

``When we drop our children off at school or when we walk them to the school bus, we parents can know that our children are safer than they had been in the past,'' said Frank Holleman, a deputy to Education Secretary Richard Riley.

The report uses information reported by students and principals to conclude that crime declined in the nation's schools since 1992. It is drawn from a variety of government statistics, and much of the information had been reported piecemeal in earlier studies.

Worries about school violence were raised anew just this week with an incident Tuesday at Pioneer Elementary School in Glendale, Ariz. Nobody was hurt or killed when a 14-year-old boy carried a loaded 9 mm handgun into his former school and began a standoff in a classroom full of seventh- and eighth-graders that lasted about an hour.

``Youth crime and violence are still one of the great challenges that we face,'' Reno said, adding that punishment of youth criminals must be ``fair and firm.''

The drive for a greater federal role in making schools safer came amid deadlier incidents like the April 1999 Columbine High School shooting, in which two boys killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher before fatally shooting themselves.

The new report was intended to create a national database to track school crime. Its veracity has come under some criticism from those who say students and principals alike might be unwilling to report all the troubles that occur in their schools.

The percentage of children who reported they were victims of crime at school dropped from 10 percent in 1995 to 8 percent in 1999, the government said. About the same percentage of children reporting fights remained the same over that time period.

Between 1993 and 1997, the proportion of high schoolers bringing in weapons dropped 25 percent, the report said.

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On the Net:

National Center for Education Statistics: http://nces.ed.gov/

Justice Department: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs