“I look at my dear and darling students in my classes,” says a high school teacher, “and I am heartbroken to think that next year they will be living in danger on college campuses, which seem so prone to crime of all kinds. I hate to send them out there unprotected!”

This teacher is right to be afraid. Every week seems to bring another news story about lurid campus crimes – suicides, hazing deaths, abductions, and more. But does that mean that campuses are more dangerous than, say, most American cities? And how much additional danger will your dear students be exposed to once they start college?

Some Answers

“Needed: A Fresh Perspective on Campus Violence,” an article that Anthony Bernier and Mike Males wrote for the National Education Association, offers some worthwhile perspective. Bernier is a professor at California’s San José State University School of Information, where he teaches research methods and library science. Mike Males is senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, San Francisco; he formerly taught sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

So, How Bad Is It?

Here are some of the statistics these researchers report:

  • It’s bad. Campuses are home to unacceptable levels of violent crime. However, Bernier and Males find that such crimes are part of a larger picture, that the U.S. is home to higher levels of crime than other western nations are. So campus crime is only part of a larger problem.
  • But it’s not as bad as you think. However, the researchers also find that campuses are actually safer places for young adults than non-campus areas are.
  • And younger students are not at greater risk. Bernier and Males find that younger people on campus are actually less prone to be victims of violent crimes. The researchers found that the higher the concentration of 18- to 24-year-olds, the lower the violent death rate of young people becomes. “In fact,” they write, “the violent and self-inflicted death rate of 18- to 24-year-olds on or near a university campus is just one-ninth the rate for 18- to 24-year-olds who live in non-campus areas.”

So the message could be that, yes, it is realistic to worry about our students’ wellbeing. But our concerns should not suddenly increase when they leave high school and begin college studies.

Research and Reporting

Note that in their article, Bernier and Males report data from studies conducted by a number of researchers who have studied patterns of campus crime at a number of U.S. colleges. Not all statistics were generated in studies conducted by Bernier and Males.

To Learn More about College & Career Planning for High School Students

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