School Safety in Urban Charter and Traditional Public Schools

According to this new study, urban area charter schools appear to be safer than their traditional district counterparts. Using data collected by the federal Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), Christensen divided instances of reported safety issues into “threats to person and property” and “behavioral problems.” Both district and charter schools reported high levels of threats to person and property such as bullying, physical conflict, robbery or theft, and vandalism. Yet the frequency of such reports was lower across the board in charter schools. For instance, 58 percent of traditional district teachers cited bullying as happening at least once a month or more, as opposed to 46 percent of charter school teachers.

Similar trends were found among reports of serious behavioral problems like disrespect and verbal abuse of teachers, classroom disorder, and racial tensions. While 51 percent of traditional district school teachers reported instances of disrespect to teachers, that rate was 45 percent among charter school teachers. The only category in which charters saw a higher rate of behavioral issues than district schools was that of classroom disorder (25 percent for charters, as opposed to 21 percent for district schools).

The causes of traditional urban district schools' higher rates of reported safety problems are unclear, as both district and charter schools employ comparable measures to increase school safety (closed campuses, security cameras, random drug checks, etc.). One theory holds that parents are more involved in the life of schools they consciously choose. Parents, educators and policymakers can find the report here.

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July 11, 2006
August 08, 2006