Carrying a Gun at School, by Gender and Grade Level
Definition: Estimated percentage of public school students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs who carried a gun at school in the previous year, by number of occasions and gender (e.g., in 2013-2015, an estimated 0.5% of female 9th graders in California carried a gun at school four or more times in the previous year).
Footnote: Years presented comprise two school years (e.g., 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years are shown as 2013-2015). County- and state-level data are weighted estimates; school district-level data are unweighted. Students in non-traditional programs are those enrolled in community day schools or continuation education. The notation S refers to (a) data for school districts that have been suppressed because there were fewer than 10 respondents in that group, and (b) data for counties that have been suppressed because the sample was too small to be representative. N/A means that data are not available.
Learn More About School Safety
Measures of School Safety on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, indicators of school safety are based on student reports regarding:
Data based on student reports are available by grade level (7, 9, 11, and/or non-traditional), gender, level of school connectedness,* parent education level, and sexual orientation.
*Levels of school connectedness are based on a scale created from responses to five questions about feeling safe, close to people, and a part of school, being happy at school, and about teachers treating students fairly.
The safety and supportiveness of children’s school environments play a crucial role in their development and academic success. When students feel safe and supported at school, they tend to have better school attendance and test scores, and they are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as substance abuse and violence (1). Exposure to violence at school is associated with many negative outcomes for students, including depression, suicide, substance use, truancy, academic problems, and violent behavior (2, 3). The fear of violence alone can affect students’ development, concentration, and ability to learn (4).
School safety often is compromised by bullying and harassment, which affects more than a quarter of U.S. middle and high school students each year (5). In addition to the risk of physical injury, victims of bullying are at increased risk for emotional and physical health problems, as well as poor academic achievement (5). Any young person can be bullied, but certain groups are more likely to be victimized, such as LGBTQ youth, students with disabilities, and African American/black youth (5).
According to 2013-2015 estimates, less than a quarter of California public school students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs felt very safe at school. Overall, boys were more likely to feel very safe at school than their female counterparts, as were students whose parents had higher levels of education. Among racial/ethnic groups with data, 23% of white youth statewide felt very safe at school, compared with 16% of their Asian peers. Estimates of feeling very unsafe at school were highest for American Indian/Alaska Native youth, at 6%.
Across measures, it is more common for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students and those with low levels of school connectedness to feel unsafe, fear victimization, and engage in violence-related risk behaviors when compared with other youth. For example, in 2013-2015, the percentage of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth who on four or more occasions in the previous year were afraid of being beaten up at school was 8%, compared with 3% of straight youth. In the same period, an estimated 8% of students with low school connectedness were in four or more physical fights in the previous year, compared with 1% of students with high levels of connectedness.
Statewide in 2013-2015, an estimated 5% of students in non-traditional programs carried a gun at school at least once in the previous year, and 18% carried another type of weapon at least once. By comparison, 2% of students in traditional 11th grade carried a gun and 6% carried another type of weapon at school in the previous year. Across all student groups, less than 10% of youth carried a gun at school in the previous year and less than 20% carried a weapon other than a gun.
When students are exposed to violence or feel unsafe at school, it affects their academic performance and can negatively impact their health and well being (1, 2). Efforts to improve school safety should include creating positive school climates, strengthening youth mental health services, improving school discipline policies, and supporting evidence-based family and community violence prevention programs (1, 3). Strategies to improve school safety also should address bullying and harassment, which is a pervasive problem affecting the safety of millions of students nationwide (4).
Policy options that could strengthen school safety include:
Ensuring that schools engage families and community partners to create positive school climates, which are linked to lower rates of violence and bullying, increased feelings of safety among students and staff, and other positive outcomes; such efforts should involve ongoing staff training, strategies to promote pro-social student behavior, and tiered systems of support to meet student needs (5, 6)
Supporting family- and school-based programs that strengthen communication and help all students build social-emotional skills including teamwork, problem solving, and conflict resolution (3, 5, 6, 7)
Expanding the workforce of qualified mental health professionals serving youth, such as school counselors and psychiatrists, and ensuring adequate training for school staff to recognize signs of emotional or behavioral problems and refer students to appropriate services (8)
Engaging all school stakeholders—leaders, teachers, students, families, community organizations, and others—in developing and disseminating shared codes of conduct, school policies, anti-bullying statements, and bullying reporting systems; these should pay particular attention to vulnerable populations (e.g., LGBTQ youth) and include training on how to deal with bullying incidents (4, 7)
Implementing non-punitive school discipline policies that are clear, fair, consistent, and promote a positive learning environment; such policies should be based on a tiered system of appropriate responses to misconduct that keep students in school when possible, and should include clear, equitable classroom behavior management practice (5, 6)
Promoting comprehensive violence prevention strategies that are evidence-based, data-driven, tailored to the community, and led by cross-sector coalitions (1, 3, 7)