WASHINGTON — Violent crime against students in schools fell by 50% from 1992 to 2002, with young people more often targeted for violence away from school, a federal report showed Monday.
There were about 24 crimes of rape, sexual assault, robbery and physical assault for every 1,000 students in 2002, down from 48 per 1,000 a decade earlier, according to the report from the Education and Justice departments.
The reduction mirrored the trend found outside classrooms -- overall crime is at a 30-year low across the nation.
The report found instances of school violence involving students have dropped steadily since a string of fatal shootings in the 1990s.
"There has been a drop, and we attribute a lot of that to the fact that schools are focusing on the issue more," said William Lassiter, school safety specialist at the Center for the Prevention of School Violence in Raleigh, N.C.
Schools have taken a number of steps, including installing metal detectors, hiring more security personnel and starting programs aimed at curbing bullying, which can lead to more serious crimes. A recent analysis of more than 200 studies show that school-based violence prevention programs reduce school violence by as much as 50%, said Dewey Cornell, director of the Virginia Youth Violence Project at the University of Virginia.
Others say the scope of the problem is underreported by the federal study, which relies on limited surveys and self-reporting instead of tracking actual reported crimes. In addition, the data used are already outdated, said Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, a consulting firm.
"To tell the American public that school crime is dramatically declining based upon underreported, outdated and limited data is misleading and creates a false sense of security," Trump said.
The report found students were more apt to be victims of violence outside schools.
In 2002, there were about 659,000 violent crimes involving students at school and about 720,000 away from school property. For the most serious nonfatal violent crimes -- rape, assault and robbery -- the crime rates were lower in school than away from school every year from 1992 to 2002.