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Abstract

School psychologists and administrators are often asked to respond to student violence and disorder based on incomplete or inaccurate information about the nature and scope of these problems in their schools. Records of disciplinary actions and incidents may reflect only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In national surveys, school administrators report rates of violence and disorder that are only a small fraction of the rates reported by students in national self-report surveys. Student self-report surveys on school violence and disorder may offer school officials a means of more accurately appraising the prevention needs of their students. This article compares the methods and findings of three national surveys of students in an effort to understand what methodological characteristics have the most salient impact on their findings. The article examines measures of school-related weapon carrying and fear from all three national surveys contrasting their modes of administration and question phrasing. Estimates from even the most expertly designed and administered survey will include some error. However, the stability and comparability of the national surveys across time and across surveys suggest that student self-report surveys are valuable tools for school-level needs assessment. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.