School Violence and Teen Mental Health Statistics

School shootings have created a perception that schools are becoming increasingly dangerous—a notion that, in reality, doesn’t reflect the overall trend. In fact, despite fluctuations in the rate of school violence from year to year, there has been a steady decrease over the past decade.

However, the threat of school violence still impacts teen mental health and remains a problem for today’s students. 

Here are some facts you need to know about school violence and teen mental health problems in the US. 

Key Takeaways

  • Between 1993 and 2022, the overall rate of violent student victimization dropped from 79.8 to 23.5 victimizations per 1,000 individuals aged 12 or older.
  • Despite comprising 9.2% of the population, teenagers aged 12 to 17 accounted for 10.4% of violent incidents in 2022.
  • In 2022, the United States recorded 6.6 million violent victimizations among individuals aged 12 or older, an increase from 4.6 million in 2021.
  • In 2022, approximately 42% of violent victimizations were brought to the attention of law enforcement. The incidence of motor vehicle theft victimization rose from 4.3 victimizations per 1,000 households in 2021 to 5.5 per 1,000 in 2022.
  • In 2022, the rate of student rape or sexual assault dropped compared to 2018 (1.9 incidents per 1,000 versus 2.7 per 1,000), while the rate of aggravated assault increased (5.5 per 1,000 compared to 3.8 per 1,000).
  • In 2020, students aged 12–18 experienced a victimization rate of 11 incidents per 1,000 students while on school premises or when traveling to and from school. Additionally, the victimization rate unrelated to school activities stood at 15 incidents per 1,000 students.
  • Approximately 16% of schools reported instances of student cyberbullying from 2019-2020, contrasting with 8% reported in 2009-2010.
  • Between 2021 and 2022, both males and females experienced a rise in the rate of violent victimization. For White individuals, the rate increased from 16.1 to 24.0 per 1,000, and for Hispanic individuals, it rose from 15.9 to 22.6 per 1,000.
  • In 2022, 31.9% of individuals aged 12 to 17 who experienced violent incidents at school reported them to law enforcement, compared to 25.5% in 2021.
  • Reported violent crime increased from 7.5 to 9.7 victimizations per 1,000 individuals aged 12 or older in 2022, while unreported violent crime surged from 8.7 to 13.2 per 1,000. Rates also climbed for reported (from 2.9 to 4.7 per 1,000) and unreported (from 2.6 to 5.0 per 1,000) violent crimes, excluding simple assault.

General Insights

School violence is any violent act that happens in or around the school premises, such as bullying, forcible sex offenses, crime, physical fights, harassment, hate-related verbal abuse, threats of bodily injury, nonfatal criminal victimization like theft, and active shooter incidents.

While most school violence incidents have declined over the previous years, school shootings have increased, causing teen mental health decline. Let’s look at the situation on the ground. 

  • The rate of violent victimization in the United States increased to 23.5 victimizations per 1,000 individuals aged 12 or older in 2022, following a 30-year low of 16.4–16.5 recorded during 2020–2021.
  • In 2022, approximately 1.24% (3.5 million) of individuals aged 12 or older across the nation encountered at least one violent crime. This percentage rose from 0.25% in 2021 but did not significantly differ from 2018.
  • The prevalence of violent crime among individuals aged 12 to 17 surged from 0.78% in 2021 to 1.72% in 2022. 
  • In 2022, 443,990 teenagers fell victim to school violence compared to 193,960 in 2021.
  • Between 2021 and 2022, both males and females experienced a rise in the rate of violent victimization. For White individuals, the rate increased from 16.1 to 24.0 per 1,000, and for Hispanic individuals, it rose from 15.9 to 22.6 per 1,000.
  • In 2022, 31.9% of individuals aged 12 to 17 who experienced violent incidents at school reported them to law enforcement, compared to 25.5% in 2021.
  • During 2021, 7% of high school students faced threats or injuries involving weapons such as clubs, guns, or knives while on school grounds within the past year. Asian students were less likely to experience such threats or injuries compared to students with other racial and ethnic backgrounds.
  • The percentage of Asian and Hispanic students who were threatened or injured with a weapon at school decreased from 7% and 9% in 2011 to 3% and 7% in 2021. 
  • According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more male students (7%) were threatened or injured with a weapon at school compared to female students at 6%. However, 10-year trends also show that the percentage of male students who were threatened or injured with a weapon at school decreased from 2011 to 2021. 
  • The report also revealed that 9% of high school students skipped school at least once over the course of 30 days due to feeling unsafe when going to or at school. Moreover, Black, Female, and Hispanic students were more likely than Asian, multiracial, male, and White students to miss school due to safety concerns.
  • A 10-year trend survey of high school students showed that the percentage of female and male students who missed school because of safety concerns increased from 6% overall in 2011 to 10% and 7%, respectively, in 2021. 
  • In 2020, the rate of victimization at school—occurring while students were on school premises or traveling to and from school—stood at 11 victimizations per 1,000 students. During the same year, students aged 12 to 18 experienced 285,400 victimizations at school.
  • A 2020 National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) survey revealed that male students experienced a victimization rate at school of 15 per 1,000 students, more than twice the rate of 7 per 1,000 observed among female students aged 12 to 18.
  • In 2020, students from households earning between $25,000 and $49,999 annually had a higher total victimization rate at school (19 victimizations per 1,000 students) than those from households earning $100,000 or more per year (8 per 1,000 students).
  • Between 2019 and 2020, the overall victimization rate at school plummeted from 30 victimizations per 1,000 students to 11 victimizations per 1,000 students—a decline of over 60%.
  • From 2009 to 2019, the total school victimization rate decreased from 51 victimizations per 1,000 students to 30 per 1,000 students.

Types of School Violence Statistics

Children are exposed to various types of violence in and near their schools. This includes everything from school shootings to sexual assault. Let’s explore some statistics on different types of school violence.

School Shootings 

  • In the United States, incidents of mass shootings involving firearms occur approximately biweekly, with school shootings happening around once every four weeks. 
  • The occurrences of mass shootings and fatalities resulting from them rose between 2017 and 2019, declined in 2020, but then increased once more in 2021. 

Gun-Related Incidents 

  • Guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens in the country, with those aged 5–14 being 21 times more likely and adolescents and young adults aged 15–24 being 23 times more likely to be killed with guns compared to their counterparts in other high-income countries. 
  • Gun violence in 2021 resulted in 45,027 deaths (including 20,937 suicides). Among them, 313 children aged 0–11 were killed, with 750 injured, while 1,247 youth aged 12–17 lost their lives, and 3,385 were injured. 
  • In 2021, Black children and adolescents faced a staggering 14 times and Latina three times higher risk than White peers of experiencing gun-related fatalities.
  • In 2020, there were 19,384 gun-related murders, marking a 34% increase from the previous year, a 49% increase over five years, and a 75% increase over a decade.

Bullying

  • From 2019-2020, about 16% of schools reported incidents of student cyberbullying, twice as high as the 8% reported in 2009-2010.
  • According to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS), 16% of high school students were electronically bullied through Instagram, Facebook, texting, or other social media platforms. 
  • The same report also indicated that female students (20%) were more likely than male students (11%) to be electronically bullied. However, ten-year trends showed that the percentage of male students who were electronically bullied increased from 2011 to 2021. 
  • In 2021, American Indian/Alaska Native and White students were 21% and 19% more likely than students from most other racial and ethnic groups to be electronically bullied. In comparison, only 13% of Asian and Hispanic students experienced cyberbullying—the lowest among all racial groups. 
  • In 2021, 15% of high school students experienced bullying on school premises within the past year. However, Black students were less likely than students from most other racial and ethnic groups to experience bullying at school.
  • Approximately 15.7% of students reported experiencing electronic bullying, while 19.5% reported being bullied on school property, according to the 2019 YRBS.
  • The same report indicated that female students (30.2%) had a higher likelihood of experiencing any form of bullying victimization compared to male students (19.2%). Plus, White students experienced a significantly higher percentage of bullying victimization at 28.8%, compared to Hispanic students at 19.2% and Black students at 18.0%.

Sexual Assault and Harassment

  • In 2022, the incidence of student rape or sexual assault decreased compared to 2018, with rates at 1.9 incidents per 1,000 versus 2.7 per 1,000. However, the rate of aggravated assault increased to 5.5 per 1,000 compared to 3.8 per 1,000.
  • During 2021, 8% of high school students reported experiencing coercion into sexual intercourse against their will at least once. Female students (14%) were more likely than male students (4%) to have encountered such situations.
  • From 2011 to 2021, the percentage of female students who had ever been forced to have sex increased from 12% to 14%. 
  • In 2021, 11% of high school students experienced unwanted sexual activities, such as kissing, touching, or being coerced into intercourse by someone against their will. Again, female students (18%) were more likely than male students (5%) to report such instances of sexual violence. 
  • From 2011 to 2021, the percentage of female students experiencing sexual violence by anyone increased from 15% to 18%.
  • In 2021, Alaska Native/American Indian students were more likely to be forced to have sex compared to students from nearly every other racial and ethnic group. 
  • In 2019, 8.2% of high school students reported experiencing physical and sexual dating violence. 
  • About 10.8% of students reported experiencing sexual violence victimization from any perpetrator in 2019. However, the most common frequency reported was one time each for sexual violence, sexual dating violence, and physical dating violence.
  • According to the 2019 YRBS, the prevalence of physical dating violence among male students (41.6%) had higher frequency levels (≥4 times) compared to female students (21.6%). 
  • The same report also revealed a higher prevalence of sexual dating violence among male students (41.0%) compared to female students (20.8%). Additionally, male students reported a frequency greater than four times for sexual violence (33.9%) than female students (18.6%).
  • In 2019, about 12.2% of students experienced two types of dating violence victimization; however, only 3.0% experienced both types. 

Effects of School Violence on Teen Mental Health

School violence—especially if it’s mental or sexual—impacts youth mental health at all community levels. It increases drop-out rates, leads to crimes caused by mental illness, and causes a general decline in youth learning. 

Let’s understand how it has affected students across the country:

  • According to the 2021 YRBS, 10% of female students and over 20% of LGBQ+ students tried to commit suicide in the past year. 
  • The same report also showed that 42% of high school students experienced persistent feelings of hopelessness or sadness for at least two weeks, which caused them to stop their usual activities. Female students (57%) were more prone to such feelings compared to male students (29%).
  • In 2021, multiracial and Hispanic students were more likely than White, Black, and Asian students to experience persistent feelings of hopelessness or sadness. Ten-year trends also showed that the percentage of students who experienced persistent feelings of hopelessness or sadness increased from 2011 to 2021. 
  • Around 29% of high school students reported mental health issues in the past month. About 41% of female students experienced poor mental health issues compared to male students at 18%.
  • Moreover, Black and Asian students were less likely than multiracial and Hispanic students to experience a decline in mental health. In fact, Asian students were also less likely than White students to experience mental health issues.
  • In 2021, 22% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide during the past year, with female students having the highest rates at 30% and male students at 14%. 
  • Compared to other racial and ethnic groups, Asian students in 2021 reported lower instances of seriously considering suicide. In fact, ten-year trends showed a drop in the percentage of Asian students seriously considering suicide, from 19% to 18%. 
  • A large percentage of female students reported making a suicide plan compared to males (24% vs. 12%) in 2021. However, LGBQ+ students and students with same-sex partners displayed a much higher prevalence of suicide plan formation, with rates at 27% and 50%, respectively.
  • In 2021, females (24%) were significantly more likely than males (12%) to have made a suicide plan in the past year. This gender gap has widened since 2011, with females experiencing a concerning increase from 15% to 24%. The percentage of Black, Hispanic, and White students who made a suicide plan increased as well during that time. 
  • A troubling 27% of LGBQ+ students and a staggering 50% of students with same-sex partners reported making a suicide plan in 2021.
  • Ten percent of high school students attempted suicide in 2021, with females (13%) twice as likely as males (7%). Ten-year trends also showed that female suicidal attempts increased from 10% in 2011 to 13% in 2021.
  • Around 3% of high school students required medical attention after a suicide attempt involving injury, poisoning, or overdose in 2021. However, American Indian or Alaska Native students appeared to have a lower risk of such injuries compared to students from other racial and ethnic groups.

LGBTQ+ Students: Violence and Teen Mental Health

LGBTQ+ students are a primary target of nonfatal abuse and victimization at schools. This has led to a significant decline in LGBTQ youth mental health in many states. 

  • In 2021, nearly one-quarter of LGBQ+ students were bullied at school, 30% were electronically bullied, and 70% experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. 
  • LGBTQ+ students, including those with same-sex partners, faced a higher risk of weapon-based threats and injuries at school compared to their peers (8% and 15%, respectively), according to the 2021 YRBS. Moreover, 6% of homosexual students also experienced violence at school.
  • In 2021, 27% of LGBTQ+ students and 37% of students with same-sex contacts were cyberbullied compared to just 13% of their heterosexual counterparts. 
  • In 2021, LGBQ+ students and students who had any same-sex partners were more likely than their peers to miss school because of safety concerns. In fact, 14% of LGBTQ+ students and 18% of students with same-sex contacts didn’t go to school.  
  • According to the 2019 YRBS, both LGBTQ+ students (39.5%) and students not sure of their sexual identity (32.7%) had a significantly higher prevalence of bullying compared with heterosexual students (22.2%).

What Are Some Common Causes of School Violence?

According to the National Institute of Justice, the strongest predictor of school violence is antisocial behavior, followed by attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, child maltreatment, peer rejection, and moral disengagement. 

What Percentage of Students in the US Struggle With Mental Health?

According to the latest Youth Risk Surveillance Survey, 29% of high school students in the US experience poor mental health, and over 42% have persistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness. 

Moreover, female students are more likely than male students to feel stressed, along with Hispanic, Black, and White students. 

What Are the Negative Effects of School Violence?

School violence, like mass shootings and sexual assaults, can have both physical and psychological effects. 

Students exposed to these traumatic events often develop depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health issues. They also experience heightened insecurity and fear, which can make them feel unsafe and threaten their sense of well-being. 

Author: Shantel Sullivan Ed.D., LCSW
Dr. Shantel Sullivan, Ed.D., LCSW, serves as the CEO of Bright Path with a rich background in residential adolescent treatment, adult outpatient services, and academia, leveraging over a decade of licensed social work experience in New York and North Carolina. Her academic credentials include a BA in Sociology, an MSW and a graduate certificate in addictions counseling from the University of New England, culminating in a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership focused on transformational leadership. Beyond her clinical expertise, Dr. Sullivan contributes to the field as a national speaker, educator, and editor of the Bright Path Teen Mental Health Blog, committed to enhancing access to evidence-based mental health care for adolescents and their families.
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