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Data/Research: School Safety & Security

Following you’ll find a selection of key data and research to better understand school safety and security issues. 

School Safety 

SchoolSafety.gov offers a brief overview and federal resources on multiple school safety issues, including the creation of emergency response plans, combating cyberbullying and strategies that help schools recover after tragedies. 

The Indicators of School Crime and Safety, an annual federal report, offers comprehensive data on the prevalence of key school safety incidents, such as bullying, hate crimes and weapons possession. It also contains data on the presence of campus security staff and highlights how school security technology, such as surveillance cameras, has become more prevalent. 

The Cyberbullying Research Center offers a state-by-state overview of laws that seek to prevent cyberbullying both on and off campus. 

A literature review in the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research provides an in-depth analysis on the efficacy of anti-bullying policies, concluding that such efforts are effective if implemented “with a high level of fidelity.”

A report by the Federal Commission on School Safety offers in-depth insights on the scope of school safety concerns and strategies to promote campus security, including “red flag” gun laws and behavioral health care. 

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report offers an overview of school emergency operations planning, including a tally of states that require educators to prepare for situations like bomb threats, bus accidents, infectious disease outbreaks and campus intruders. 

The National Conference of State Legislatures offers a state-by-state overview of bills proposed in the last several years to promote school safety, including those related to active-shooter drills, mental health services and arming teachers. 

Police and Physical Security 

The federal Civil Rights Data Collection, released every two years, provides a trove of data on campus safety and security. CRDC data have shown that students of color are disproportionately referred to school-based police and arrested, when compared with their white peers. Note: The data is self-reported by districts to the federal government, and underreporting has long been a concern with issues such as schools’ use of seclusion and restraint. 

WestEd produced a research brief on the roles and efficacy of school-based police, often called school resource officers. It notes that “the consensus of the available evidence” does not suggest that school resource officers make schools safer. 

A literature review by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Center found “no publicly available research” on school officers’ ability to prevent school shootings. While some reports suggest that school-based police reduce students’ fear of campus crime, others find that officers signal to students that schools are unsafe.

An Education Week survey found a majority of educators support the hiring of school-based police.

Though security technology such as surveillance cameras and metal detectors have become widespread in schools, a RAND Corporation report found that “rigorous research about the effectiveness of these technologies is virtually nonexistent.” 

Physical security measures could have a detrimental effect on school climate and academic achievement. One report in the journal Education and Urban Society found that metal detectors are negatively associated with students’ perceptions of safety at school. A report in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that surveillance cameras outside of schools — in places like parking lots — made students feel safer, but such surveillance inside schools made youth feel like potential perpetrators. 

A database by Child Trends and the National Association of State Boards of Education highlights state laws on a range of issues related to school safety and security, including restraint and seclusion, corporal punishment and student searches. Meanwhile, Child Trends produced an in-depth analysis on the evolution of state school safety laws since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School.

School Shootings

A report by the U.S. Secret Service found that school shooters generally plot their attacks in advance, share details of their plans with others, and often exhibit warning signs that might provide a window for officials to intervene. 

A Federal Bureau of Investigation report on the pre-attack behaviors of “active shooters” found that perpetrators of mass violence don’t share demographic traits, but often experience multiple life “stressors” like financial strain and school conflicts. 

The RAND Corporation produced a comprehensive review of existing research on 18 broad categories of firearms policies, including background checks, age requirements and extreme risk protection orders often called “red flag” laws. Though the review isn’t specific to education, it provides an in-depth analysis of gun control policies that are often proposed in the wake of mass school shootings, with some laws likely having a greater effect on campus violence than others. 

Everytown for Gun Safety offers a comprehensive and up-to-date tally of gunfire on K-12 and college campuses. Note that there is not a standard, agreed-upon definition for “school shooting” or “mass shooting,” and groups that track such incidents often rely on different methodologies. The Everytown tracker includes incidents in which nobody was hurt or killed. Education Week has a similar tracker but uses a different methodology.

School Discipline

A Government Accountability Office report found “no empirical research” on the link between school discipline policies and school shootings. 

Restorative justice has been pitched as a nonpunitive alternative to suspensions and expulsions. A RAND Corporation report found that the approach improved school climate and reduced suspensions but did not reduce youth arrests and led to a dip in academic achievement for middle school students.  

Updated July 2021.

 

READ MORE ON SCHOOL SAFETY & SECURITY:

History and Background: School Safety & Security

5 Story Ideas: School Safety & Security

A Security Mindset