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Native students subject to high rates of school violence

More and more American Indian and Alaska Native high school students are reporting being victimized at school, even as violence involving other racial and ethnic youth is dropping, according to data released on Monday.

Last year, 22.1 percent of Native students reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property. This was the highest rate of violence experienced by any student group.

Not only did Native students experience the most victimization, they also reported the biggest growth in violence. From 1999 to 2003, the number of Native high schoolers who reported being threatened or injured with a weapon rose nearly 9 percentage points, the highest gain of any student group.

According to the data, 24.2 percent of Native high school students were involved in a physical fight on campus last year. Again, this was the highest rate of all racial and ethic youth and it represented an 8 percentage point gain from 1999 to 2003.

American Indian and Alaska Native high schoolers also reported the highest rate of carrying a weapon. Last year, 12.9 percent said they took a weapon to school and 29.3 percent said they carried a weapon elsewhere.

A whopping 52 percent of Native students said they drank alcohol within the past month, a rate nearly the same as drinking among White and Hispanic students. Hispanic students and Native students reported the highest rates of drinking on campus, according to the report.

At 32.8 percent, marijuana use by Native teens was also the highest of any student group. The number of Native high school students who said they used the drug on school property rose from 8.9 percent in 1999 to 11.4 percent in 2003, which represented the only increase among all student groups.

About 31 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native high schools students said they were offered the use of drugs on campus, about the same rate as other youth.

The statistics for Native youth contrasted with the rest of the nation. The rate of violent crimes in school settings against students ages 12 to 18 dropped by half between 1992 and 2002, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice reported in "Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2004."

"This report shows that over the past ten years or so that violent incidents among teenagers have declined in our schools, as have the number of students who bring weapons to school," said Deborah Price, deputy under secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. "This annual report helps us monitor school safety. It is a necessary reminder that we need to ensure that public schools are safe places where parents feel secure in sending their children."

The report is consistent with other studies that show high rates of violence, drug use and other high-risk behaviors among American Indian and Alaska Native students. Whether in public schools or Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, Native students are victimized more often than other students, according to the data.

According to the Office of Indian Education at the Department of Education, about 500,000 Native students attend public schools. This is about 10 times the number of students in BIA schools.

The Bush administration says a safe learning environment is conducive to a better education. But reports show that Native students are still falling behind when it comes to standardized tests and other achievement measures.

Get the Report:
Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2004 (November 2004)

Relevant Links:
Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools -