A classroom in Bridgeport's Harding High School

Schools nationally and in Connecticut are becoming safer as student violence continues to decline. Meanwhile, schools are ramping up measures to protect themselves from outside threats in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Statewide, the number of students disciplined for violent offenses has declined in recent years, according to state data. For example, there were 1,059 fewer fights in Connecticut’s schools last school year compared to 2010-11 — an 8 percent dip. Threatening behavior declined by 27 percent and verbal confrontations by 29 percent.

“We are encouraged by the statewide decline in student discipline, but it remains clear that more work remains on that front,” said Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut State Department of Education.

Percent of public schools with various safety and discipline incidents and procedures
2009-10 2013-14
Violent incident 74.0% 65.0%
Serious violent crime 16.0% 13.0%
Bullying happens at least weekly 23.1% 15.7%
Violent Crimes per 1,000 students 25 16
Drilled students on active shooter situation 51.9% 70%
Controlled access to building 91.7% 93%
Daily Metal detector checks 1.4% 2%
Security cameras 61.1% 75%
Student id badges required 6.9% 9%
Faculty badges required 62.9% 68%
Electronic emergency notification system 63.1% 82%
National Center for Education Statistics

report last week from the U.S. Department of Education’s research arm showed Connecticut’s experience mirrors a national trend. Nationwide, 74 percent of schools reported that a violent incident occurred at school during the 2009-10 school year compared to 65 percent in 2013-14. The national report did not draw any conclusions about why student violence is down.

However, the report did note that school also are doing more to defend against outside threats.

More schools have security cameras, badges for students and faculty and electronic systems to notify parents during an emergency, the national report found.

Before the 2012 school shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead, 52 percent of schools surveyed reported that they would have at least one drill a year on how to respond to an active shooter at their school. Last school year, 70 percent of schools reported they held such a drill.

“Things have improved. Violence has decreased in schools and processes have improved to respond,” said John Ralph, a project officer for the National Center for Education Statistics, who oversees the surveys. “The results reflect real changes. There are very real differences.”

Schools in Connecticut have also been beefing up their security. Donnelly credits legislation that was approved in the wake of Sandy Hook.

“There has been a very concerted effort by the state and districts on strengthening the existing school facilities as well as fostering a safe school climate,” she said.

The state has provided $43 million to help school districts purchase things like security cameras, two-way radios, and emergency notification systems. The post-Newtown law also required schools to have a security plan that addressed active shooter situations and a security committee at each school to address potential security issues.

While much of the focus — and funding — has been on protecting students from another active shooter, data show that students are more likely to be victims of bullying or involved in a fight with a classmate.  Nationwide, 31 children across the country were killed while at school during the 2010-11 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, the U.S. Department of Education reports.

In Connecticut’s public schools, officials identify more than 300 students each year who are victims of bullying; nearly 13,000 fights take place; and 700 violent crimes happen while students are at school.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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