An eighteen-year longitudinal examination of school victimization and weapon use in California secondary schools

Rami Benbenishty, Ron Avi Astor*, Ilan Roziner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: School safety has been a major public health issue in the United States and internationally for more than three decades. Many policies and programs have been developed and implemented to prevent school violence, improve the school climate, and increase safety. There are only a few peer-reviewed studies of changes in school violence over time. The study examined changes over time in school victimization, weapon involvement and school climate, comparing change trajectories by gender and race and different change trajectories among schools. Methods: A longitudinal study of the biennial California Healthy Kids Survey in secondary schools from 2001 to 2019. The representative sample included 6,219,166 students in grades 7, 9, and 11 (48.8% male) from 3253 schools (66% high schools). Results: All victimization and weapon involvement items had significant and substantial linear reductions. The largest reduction involved being in a physical fight (from 25.4% to 11.0%). There were reductions in weapon involvement (d = 0.46) and victimization (d = 0.38). Biased-based victimization only declined slightly (d = −0.05). School belongingness and safety increased (d = 0.27), adult support increased a small amount (d = 0.05), and student participation declined (d = −0.10). Changes were smallest among White students. Ninety-five percent of the schools showed the same pattern of reductions. Conclusions: The findings are in contrast to the public’s concerns that school violence is a growing problem. Reductions in school violence may result from social investment in school safety. A distinction should be made between school shootings and other forms of school violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1082-1093
Number of pages12
JournalWorld Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • School climate
  • School violence
  • Weapons


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