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School Violence in Decline, Report Shows

But there's room for improvement to make schools safer--especially in light of the recent Ohio shooting.

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Three teenagers were killed this week when a 16-year-old gunman opened fire in the cafeteria of Chardon High School, near Cleveland. Two other students were wounded, and countless kids, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members of Chardon—a city of about 5,000—will likely never be the same.

Thirty-three violent deaths occurred at elementary and secondary school schools between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, either on campus, on the way to or from campus, or during a school event, according to a recent report produced jointly by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Institute of Education Sciences, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. These 33 deaths not only account for students, but also for staff members and others on school grounds, such as parents and intervening law enforcement officials, who were victims of homicide or suicide, the report clarifies.

While 33 school-related deaths in one year is 33 too many, this number is actually the lowest it's been since the report began tracking school violence in 1992. In 2006, the number of school-related deaths per year peaked at 63, the report shows. In fact, in-school homicides have consistently accounted for less than 2 percent of the total number of youth homicides nationwide for the years the report covers.

[Learn how ex-gang members help students escape violent groups.]

The number of nonfatal violent incidents, such as assault and theft, among students ages 12 to 18 has generally declined as well, the report shows. However, the new data confirms that this teen violence was more likely to happen on school grounds, rather than away from school, and in urban regions. The rate of violent victimization is 18 students per 1,000 in urban areas, 14 per 1,000 in suburban areas, and 7 per 1,000 in rural areas, the report says.

Bullying—the subject of ongoing national discussion over the past year—is often seen as a major cause of school violence. New data in the report shows that 28 percent of students ages 12 through 18 have reported being bullied at some point at school in 2009. According to this report's data, the percentage of students being bullied is comparable to that of recent years—28 percent in 2005, and 32 percent in 2007.

Most commonly, bullied students reported being called hurtful names, insulted, made fun of, or the subject of rumors. Nearly half of the bullied students surveyed said the bullying occurred in the hallways or stairwells of the school, and 34 percent reported to being bullied in the classroom.

[Follow these 3 tips for parents to help their bullied kids.]

The more recent trend of cyber bullying via text messages or Internet sources such as social media sites, instant messages, or E-mail was also surveyed in the report, although the most recent data is for 2009. That year, about 6 percent of 12-to-18-year-olds reported being cyber bullied, most commonly through text messaging.

But as more students have gained access to smartphones and have become more tech-savvy in the last two years, some experts think that much more than 6 percent of current students experience cyber bullying. One legal expert, Parry Aftab, told U.S. News in July 2011 that it's probably closer to 40 percent of high schools students who get cyber bullied.

One bullied student may have been the teen gunman, identified as T.J. Lane, who killed three people at Chardon High School. While his motive is still unclear, some Chardon students have told media outlets that the gunman was an outcast and sometimes bullied.

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