School Safety At A Glance
School safety is an important concern for the more than 49.5 million students and staff in schools across the country. It is fundamental to addressing and preventing youth violence, and fostering positive student well-being, academic achievement, and prosocial behavior.1,2,3 However, new information from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) data shows that there is an increase in threats to schools, as more students are bringing weapons to school and experiencing cyberbullying and mental health challenges.
|Percentage of High School Students in the US Who:||2019 (%)||2021(%)|
|Carried a Gun||4.4||3.5|
|Brought a Weapon to School||2.8||3.1|
|Were Threatened/Injured with a Weapon at School||7.4||6.6|
|Were Bullied at School||19.5||15|
|Experienced Electronic Bullying (Cyberbullying)||15.7||15.9|
|Were in a Fight at School||8||5.8|
|Felt Sad or Hopeless||36.7||42.3|
|Seriously Considered Attempting Suicide||18.8||22|
|Did Not go to School Because They Felt Unsafe||8.7||8.6|
|Felt Close to People at School (School Connectedness)||**||61|
Although the reasons students face these issues may vary, schools should have policies, systems, and environments that support all members of the community to 1) feel welcome, connected, and secure; 2) access equitable supports and services; and 3) build the skills they need for safe and healthy futures.
Creating Safe Schools
Creating safe schools takes a comprehensive and layered approach.3,4,5 A plan should be put together by a multidisciplinary team based on the best available evidence-based strategies with input from the school community and evaluated systematically. School safety experts also recommend a combination of the following strategies that fall along the crisis timeline that includes prevention, response, and recovery.
Prevention strategies identify and address risks to school safety before incidents occur to decrease violence. Response strategies address urgent needs to reduce negative effects when violence or crisis does occur. Recovery strategies support returning to operations after an incident and ensuring that longer-term community needs are met after violence
or crisis occurs.
Prevention strategies have the strongest evidence supporting their implementation and success in reducing violence. Here are some examples of common strategies and their evidence base. Where strategies fall on the crisis timeline is indicated below:
School safety strategies with clear and consistent evidence bases:6,7
- School climate, social-emotional learning, and anti-bullying programs8,9
- Threat assessment and related screening programs10,11
- Restorative practices/non-exclusionary discipline12
- Trauma-informed responses and resilience orientation13,14
- Non-remedial after-school and youth empowerment programs15
School safety strategies with developing evidence bases:
- Interpersonal surveillance such as reporting systems16
- Active shooter training and other lockdown drills17,18
- School Resource Officers (SROs)19
- Door lock policies, signage, and school-focused Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)20
- Coordination with law enforcement/first responders21
- Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs)22
School safety strategies with limited or mixed evidence bases:
- Video cameras, metal detectors, other target hardening measures4
- Stop the Bleed/hemorrhage control training
- Armed teachers/staff/security personnel (non-SROs)
- Technology-aided identification/monitoring4
When putting together a comprehensive plan, it is important to remember that strategies can also influence other strategies. Use the resources below to learn more about each strategy.
- Essential Elements of School Threat Assessment Webinar
- Trauma-Informed Resilience-Oriented Toolkit
- Lockdown Drills Self-Paced Training
- School Resource Officer Video Series
- School Safety Crime Prevention through Environmental Design Video
- Extreme Risk Protection Orders Video
- Justin Heinze, PhD (Associate Professor, University of Michigan; Co-Director, National Center for School Safety)
- Emily Torres, MPH (Program Manager & Technical Assistance Lead, National Center for School Safety)
- Sarah M. Stilwell, PhD (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Michigan, National Center for School Safety)
- Brent Allen Miller, MA, PMP (Training Manager, National Center for School Safety)
- Carolyn Seiger (Instructional Designer, National Center for School Safety)
- Erin Wyatt (Marketing Communications Specialist, National Center for School Safety)
- Thapa, A., Cohen, J., Guffey, S., & Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. (2013). A review of school climate research. Review of Educational Research, 83, 357–385. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654313483907
- Kutsyuruba, B., Klinger, D. A., & Hussain, A. (2015). Relationships among school climate, school safety, and student achievement and well-being: A review of the literature. Review of Education, 3(2), 103–135. https://doi.org/10.1002/rev3.3043
- Bradshaw, C., & Cohen, J. (2021). Addressing School Safety Through Comprehensive School Climate Approaches. School Psychology Review, 50. https://doi.org/10.1080/2372966X.2021.1926321
- Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. (2016). Comprehensive Report on School Safety Technology. National Institute of Justice. https://nij.ojp.gov/library/publications/comprehensive-report-school-safety-technology
- A Comprehensive School Safety Framework: Report to the Committees on Appropriations. (2020). National Institute of Justice.
- Stilwell, S., Heinze, J., Zimmerman, M., Hsieh, H.-F., Grodzinski, A., & Torres, E. (2023). Positive Youth Development Approach to School Safety: A Comprehensive Conceptual Model. National Center for School Safety.
- Espelage, D., Woolweaver, A., & Robinson, L. (2023). Synthesizing Knowledge on Equity and Equity-Based School Safety Strategies [National Institutes of Justice]. https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/305338.pdf
- Development Services Group, Inc. (2022). Bullying and Cyberbullying. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/model-programs-guide/literature-reviews/bullying-and-cyberbullying
- Development Services Group, Inc. (2010). Cognitive Behavioral Treatment. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
- Cornell, D. (2020). Essential Elements of School Threat Assessment. Webinar, National Center for School Safety. https://www.nc2s.org/training/essential-elements-of-school-threat-assessment/
- Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model: An Operational Guide for Preventing Targeted School Violence. (2018). United States Secret Service. https://www.secretservice.gov/newsroom/reports/threat-assessments/schoolcampus-attacks/details
- Development Services Group, Inc. (2021). Literature Review: Restorative Justice for Juveniles. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/model-programs-guide/literature-reviews/restorative-justice-for-juveniles
- Stratford, B., Cook, E., Hanneke, R., Katz, E., Seok, D., Steed, H., Fulks, E., Lessans, A., & Temkin, D. (2020). A Scoping Review of School-Based Efforts to Support Students Who Have Experienced Trauma. School Mental Health, 12(3), 442–477. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-020-09368-9
- Black, P., Henderson-Smith, L., & Flinspach, S. (2021). Trauma-Informed, Resilience-Oriented Schools Toolkit. https://www.nc2s.org/resource/trauma-informed-resilience-oriented-schools-toolkit/
- Zimmerman, M. A., Eisman, A. B., Reischl, T. M., Morrel-Samuels, S., Stoddard, S., Miller, A. L., Hutchison, P., Franzen, S., & Rupp, L. (2018). Youth Empowerment Solutions: Evaluation of an After-School Program to Engage Middle School Students in Community Change. Health Education & Behavior, 45(1), 20–31. https://doi.org/10.1177/1090198117710491
- Messman, E., Heinze, J., Hsieh, H.-F., Hockley, N., Pomerantz, N., Grodzinski, A., Scott, B., Goldstein, N., & Zimmerman, M. (2022). Anonymous Reporting Systems for School-Based Violence Prevention: A Systematic Review. Health Education & Behavior, 10901981211073734. https://doi.org/10.1177/10901981211073734
- Schildkraut, J. (2022). Lockdown Drills. https://www.nc2s.org/training/lockdown-drills/
- Huskey, M. G., & Connell, N. M. (2021). Preparation or Provocation? Student Perceptions of Active Shooter Drills. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 32(1), 3–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/0887403419900316
- School Policing Programs: Where We Have Been and Where We Need To Go Next. (2022). National Institute of Justice. https://nij.ojp.gov/library/publications/school-policing-programs-where-we-have-been-and-where-we-need-go-next
- Koffkey, C., & Heinze, J. (2021). School Safety & Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (Video). https://www.nc2s.org/resource/school-safety-crime-prevention-through-environmental-design-cpted-video/
- Progress Report: Crisis Timeline and Law Enforcement. (n.d.).
- National Center for School Safety (Director). (2021). Reducing Gun Violence: Extreme Risk Protection Orders (Video).