Despite mass shootings and other high-profile incidents nationwide, a new UCLA study has found that day-to-day violence at California’s middle and high schools is sharply lower than it was around the turn of the century.
Researchers analyzed 18 years of data from the California Healthy Kids Survey, a confidential, anonymous questionnaire given to fifth, seventh, ninth and 11th graders each year.
Results between 2001 and 2019 found a 56% reduction in school fights, a 70% reduction in reports of guns on campus, a 68% reduction in other weapons, such as knives, and a 59% reduction in students being threatened by weapons on school grounds.
The study, which included responses from more than 6 million middle and high school students, also found larger declines among Black and Latino students compared to white students.
“Each school shooting is a devastating act that terrorizes the nation, and there is a growing sense in the public that little has changed in two decades to make schools safe,” said UCLA scholar Ron Avi Astor, who co-authored the study. “But mass shootings are just one part of this story. Overall, on a day-to-day basis for most students, American schools are safer than they’ve been for many decades.”
Astor says the declines were found in more than 95% of California schools in every county.
“It is important to learn from the policies and interventions that have helped reduce school violence in the last two decades to face these new challenges,” the study’s authors wrote.
The study did not include data from after the COVID-19 pandemic which shuttered California schools. Researchers acknowledge there could be a shift in some of the results based on increased “mental health issues and outbursts of violence” because of the pandemic.