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Healthy Kids: Violence

This interactive dashboard and analysis explore violence in Colorado's high schools using data from the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.
Published: July 15, 2016 | Updated: May 3, 2017

School is a frightening place for some of Colorado’s high school students.

Newly released data from the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey show that 5.5 percent of students say they skipped school because they felt unsafe while they were there or while they were getting there. That’s up just a bit from 2013, when 5.2 percent of students reported feeling so unsafe that they skipped school.

But school is far scarier — and, in some cases, even dangerous — for certain students, according to the survey.

  • Sexual Orientation: About 12 percent of lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) students say they have been threatened or injured with a weapon while they were at school, more than 2.5 times the rate of heterosexual students (4.6 percent).
  • Race/Ethnicity: About one of 10 multiracial students reports being threatened or injured at school, twice the rate of white students (4.8 percent).
  • Gender: High school girls are a bit more likely than boys to report skipping school because they feel unsafe, with 6.3 percent indicating they are afraid either at school or on the way compared with 4.6 percent of boys.
  • Geography: Students in Pueblo County are the most likely to be threatened or injured at school, with 8.6 percent reporting threats or injuries at the hands of someone with a weapon. Students in the rural region of Lake, Chaffee, Fremont and Custer counties have the second-highest rate at 7.8 percent. Pueblo County students also face gang violence, experiencing the second-highest rate of gang-related injuries at 10.5 percent, trailing only Denver County at 11 percent.

This report about violence in Colorado’s high schools is the first in a series by the Colorado Health Institute (CHI) delving into findings from the survey, which collects health information every other year from Colorado public school students. About 16,000 high school students took the 2015 survey.

The results are tabulated on a statewide basis as well as by demographic characteristics. The data are also broken out regionally based on the 21 health statistics regions (HSRs) created by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment. Larger counties make up their own HSRs while smaller counties are grouped together.

The 2015 survey lacks data from four large counties – Weld, Douglas, Jefferson and El Paso. Douglas County did not participate in the survey.  Participation was so low in Weld, Jefferson and El Paso counties that the data could not be broken out individually, but it is included in the statewide findings. 

Each of CHI’s Healthy Kids Colorado briefs will be accompanied by a data dashboard allowing users to interact with the data and focus on specific regions.

Unsafe at School: Weapon Threats and Injuries

Among Colorado’s high school students, 5.6 percent say they were threatened or actually injured by someone wielding a gun, knife, club or other weapon in the 12 months before the survey.

The three highest rates for threats or injuries are in Pueblo County (8.6 percent), the region (HSR 13) of Lake, Chaffee, Fremont and Custer counties (7.8 percent) and the region (HSR 17) of Gilpin, Clear Creek, Park and Teller counties (7.6 percent).

Large urban school districts tend to have higher rates of violence. Still, some of Colorado’s larger districts are managing to turn in relatively lower rates of threats and injuries. The rate in Denver County, for instance, is 5.6 percent. In Mesa County, home of Grand Junction, it’s 5.9 percent. Boulder County was among the three lowest rates in the state, at 4.1 percent.

Unsafe at School: Gang Threats and Injuries

Statewide, 6.8 percent of students say they have been the victim of gang threats or injuries in the past year.

American Indian/Alaska Native students were the most likely to say they have been threatened or injured by gangs at 11.8 percent. Multiracial students were second at 11.2 percent, followed by Asian students at 9.4 percent, black students at 8.4 percent and Hispanic students at 8.3 percent. The rate for white students, by comparison, is 4.9 percent.

Sexual orientation makes a difference, with 11.4 percent of LGB students saying they have been victims of gang threats or injuries, twice the rate of heterosexual students (5.8 percent).

Eleven percent of Denver County students report that they have received gang threats or injuries, the highest level in Colorado. Pueblo County is second at 10.5 percent.

Skipping School Because It Feels Unsafe

While 5.5 percent of Colorado’s high school students say they skipped school in the month before the survey because they were frightened either at school or on the way to school, certain students report more worries about safety.

More than 12 percent of LGB students say they skipped school because they felt unsafe compared with 4.1 percent of heterosexual students.

Among multiracial students, 8.9 percent say they skipped school out of fear. The rate for Hispanics is 5.4 percent. By comparison, 4.6 percent of white students report not going to school because they feel unsafe.

Eight percent of Pueblo County’s high school students say they skipped school out of fear, the state’s highest rate. The region (HSR 17) of Clear Creek, Park and Teller counties was second at 7.9 percent.