Abstract: Trend in School Violence Victimization in the Last Two Decades- the Case of Secondary Schools in California (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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454P Trend in School Violence Victimization in the Last Two Decades- the Case of Secondary Schools in California

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Ron Avi Astor, PhD, Professor, UCLA, Woodland Hills, CA
Rami Benbenishty, PhD, Professor Emritus, Hebrew university of Jerusalem, Jerualem, Israel
Ilan Roziner, PhD, Senior Researcher, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Background and Purpose: School violence is a major problem that has deleterious outcomes for victims, perpetrators and schools. In recent years there is a growing public concern that school violence is increasing. This led to suggestions to enhance school safety using measures such as ‘hardening schools’ and arming teachers. Most of these responses reflect a reaction to a small number of tragic school shootings. The aim of the present study was to examine systematically multiple manifestations of school violence over a relatively long period of time in order to assess: 1. What are time trends of various types of victimization in schools, and 2. Whether different groups of students (i.e., by gender and race) show different trends.

Methods: The study is based on a secondary analyses of the bi-annual California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) among secondary schools students between 2001 and 2019 (nine waves). The is administered biannually among all public school districts, schools, and students in California. A two-year wave provides a representative sample of the state of California. The sample included 6,219,166 students from 3,250 schools (63.5% high schools). School victimization items included verbal-emotional, physical (both moderate and severe), online, and weapons-related behaviors. Multi-level analyses estimated time-slopes (taking into account that students were nested in schools) for the whole sample and separately by gender and race. Latent class analyses were conducted to identify whether there were several different time-trends profiles.
Results: The findings indicate that across all victimization behaviors there was a clear downward trend over time. To illustrate, in the school years 2001-2003 25.4% of the students reported being in a physical fight and it dropped to 11.0% in the school years 2017-2019 (a 56.2% drop), reports of mean rumors or lies spread in school dropped from 45.5% to 34.4% (24.4% drop), and sexual jokes and gestures from 50% to 28.1% (43.0%). About 4.3% reported carrying a gun in school in 2001-2003 and it increased to 5.2% in 2007-2009, and then dropped steadily to 1.6% in 2015-2017 and 1.4% in 2017-2019. Latent class analysis revealed that one profile – a downward linear trend- was responsible for more of the 95% of the time-trend profiles. while there clear and consistent gender and race differences in victimization reports, time rends for males and females and across different races were similar.

Conclusions and Implications: The findings indicate that students’ reports of victimization in schools were going down steadily over the last two decades. This was true for both males and females and across all races. The current cross-sectional study cannot identify the causes for these positive trends. It may indicate, however, that the current policies and the many resources invested in preventing school violence may be working, and there is no reason to change course and implement harsher measures (such as arming teachers) that may have unintended negative conequences. Further, despite the signficant drop over time, prevalence of school violence is not negligble and should be addressed with more preventive measures.