School Safety (see data for this topic)
- Websites with Related Information
- About School Violence, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Adolescent Violence Prevention Knowledge Path, National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health
- California Dept. of Education: Safe Schools
- California Safe and Supportive Schools, WestEd
- California Safe Schools Coalition
- Community Matters: School Climate Resources
- CrimeSolutions.gov: Children Exposed to Violence, National Institute of Justice
- Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
- Governance and Policy Resources: School Safety, California School Boards Association
- National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, American Institutes for Research
- Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports: School, U.S. Office of Special Education Programs
- School Crime and Safety, National Institute of Justice
- StopBullying.gov, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services
- U.S. Dept. of Education: School Climate and Discipline
- VetoViolence, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Youth.gov, Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs
- Key Reports and Research
- 2015 National School Climate Survey: LGBTQ Students Experience Pervasive Harassment and Discrimination, But School-Based Supports Can Make a Difference, 2016, GLSEN, Kosciw, J. G., et al.
- California School Safety Toolkit, 2016, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Campie, P., et al.
- Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links Among Multiple Forms of Violence, 2014, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Prevention Institute, Wilkins, N., et al.
- Cyberbullying Fact Sheet: Identification, Prevention, and Response, 2014, Cyberbullying Research Center, Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W.
- Guidebook to the California School Climate, Health, and Learning Surveys: 2016-17 Edition, WestEd
- Portrait of Promise: The California Statewide Plan to Promote Health and Mental Health Equity, 2015, California Dept. of Public Health, Office of Health Equity
- Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
- Prevention of Bullying: Research Report and Recommendations, 2013, American Educational Research Association
- Proactive and Inclusive School Discipline Strategies, 2014, WestEd, O’Malley, M., & Austin, G.
- Social Bullying: Correlates, Consequences, and Prevention, 2013, National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, Stuart-Cassel, V., et al.
- The School Discipline Consensus Report: Strategies from the Field to Keep Students Engaged in School and Out of the Juvenile Justice System, 2014, Council of State Governments Justice Center, Morgan, E., et al.
- The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model, 2015, Journal of School Health, Hunt, H. (Ed.)
- Understanding School Violence: Fact Sheet, 2015, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- County/Regional Reports
- More Data Sources For School Safety
- California School Climate, Health, and Learning Survey (CAL-SCHLS) System, California Dept. of Education & WestEd
- Indicators of School Crime and Safety, National Center for Education Statistics, Bureau for Justice Statistics
- National Center for Education Statistics: Data Tools, U.S. Dept. of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
- National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Learn More About This Topic
- Why This Topic Is Important
The safety and supportiveness of a child’s school environment can play a crucial role in his or her development and academic success. When students feel safe and supported at school, they tend to have better school attendance and test scores, and they are less likely to engage in risky behavior, such as substance abuse and violence (1). Exposure to violence at school is associated with many negative outcomes for students, including depression, suicide, substance use, truancy, academic problems, and violent behavior (2, 3). The fear of violence alone can affect students’ development, concentration, and ability to learn (4).
School safety often is compromised by bullying and harassment, affecting more than a quarter of U.S. middle and high school students each year (5). In addition to the risk of physical injury, victims of bullying are at increased risk of emotional and physical health problems, as well as poor academic achievement (5). Any young person can be bullied, but certain groups are more likely to be victimized, such as LGBT youth, students with disabilities, and African American youth (5).For more information on school safety, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section. Also see kidsdata.org’s topics on Bullying and Harassment at School and School Connectedness.
Sources for this narrative:
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Understanding school violence: Fact sheet. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/school_violence_fact_sheet-a.pdf
3. National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. (n.d.). School crime and safety. Retrieved from: http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/school-crime/Pages/welcome.aspx
4. Austin, G., et al. (2013). Guidebook to the California Healthy Kids Survey. Part II: Survey content – core module. 2013-14 Edition. WestEd. Retrieved from: http://chks.wested.org/resources/chks_guidebook_2_coremodules.pdf
5. American Educational Research Association. (2013). Prevention of bullying in schools, colleges, and universities: Research report and recommendations. Retrieved from: http://www.aera.net/Publications/Books/PreventionofBullying/tabid/14872/Default.aspx
- Policy Implications
School safety is a major public health concern (1, 2). When students are exposed to violence or feel unsafe at school, it can negatively affect their health and well being as well as their academic performance (1, 2). According to the federal government, efforts to improve school safety should include creating positive school climates, strengthening mental health services, improving school discipline policies, preparing schools for emergencies, and supporting evidence-based family and community violence prevention programs (1, 3). Strategies to improve school safety also should address bullying and harassment, as it is a pervasive problem affecting the safety of millions of U.S. students (4).
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could strengthen school safety include:
For more policy ideas and information, see kidsdata.org's Research & Links section. Also see Policy Implications under these kidsdata.org topics: School Connectedness, Bullying and Harassment, Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions, and Emotional/Mental Health.
- Ensuring that schools engage families and community partners to create positive school climates, which are linked to lower rates of violence and bullying, increased staff and student feelings of safety, and other positive outcomes; such efforts should involve ongoing staff training, strategies to promote prosocial student behavior, and tiered systems of support to meet student needs (5, 6)
- As part of creating positive school environments, supporting school-wide programs that help all students build social-emotional skills, including teamwork, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills (3, 5, 6, 7)
- Ensuring adequate training for school staff to recognize signs of emotional or behavioral problems and refer students to appropriate services; and expanding the workforce of qualified mental health professionals serving youth, such as school counselors and psychiatrists (8)
- Engaging all school stakeholders -- leaders, teachers, students, families, community organizations, and others -- to develop and disseminate a shared anti-bullying mission statement, code of conduct, school policies, and a bullying reporting system; this should include particular attention to vulnerable populations (e.g., LGBT youth) and training on how to deal with bullying incidents (4, 7)
- Following state and federal law, implementing non-punitive school discipline policies that are clear, fair, consistent, and promote a positive learning environment; such policies should be based on a tiered system of appropriate responses to misconduct that keep students in school when possible, and they should include clear, equitable classroom behavior management practices. This will require regular training and support for all school staff. (5, 6)
- Ensuring that schools have comprehensive emergency management plans in place (1)
- Supporting evidence-based programs for families, such as parent education that strengthens communication and problem-solving skills; and promoting comprehensive community violence prevention strategies that are systematic, data-driven, tailored, led by cross-sector coalitions, and based on what is known about effective programs (3, 7)
Sources for this narrative:
1. U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Working to keep schools and communities safe. Retrieved from: http://www.ed.gov/school-safety
2. Austin, G., et al. (2013). Guidebook to the California Healthy Kids Survey. Part II: Survey content – core module. 2013-14 Edition. WestEd. Retrieved from: http://chks.wested.org/resources/chks_guidebook_2_coremodules.pdf
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Understanding school violence: Fact sheet. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/school_violence_fact_sheet-a.pdf
4. American Educational Research Association. (2013). Prevention of bullying in schools, colleges, and universities: Research report and recommendations. Retrieved from: http://www.aera.net/Publications/Books/PreventionofBullying/tabid/14872/Default.aspx
5. Morgan, E., et al. (2014). The school discipline consensus report: Strategies from the field to keep students engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system. The Council of State Governments Justice Center. Retrieved from: http://csgjusticecenter.org/youth/school-discipline-consensus-report/
6. U.S. Department of Education. (2014). School climate and school discipline: A guidance package. Retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/index.html
7. David-Ferdon C., & Simon T.R. (2014). Preventing youth violence: Opportunities for action. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/pdf/opportunities-for-action.pdf
8. Murphey, D., et al. (2014). Are the children well? A model and recommendations for promoting the mental wellness of the nation’s young people. Child Trends and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2014/07/are-the-children-well-.html
- How Children Are Faring
More than half of California students in grades 7, 9, 11 and non-traditional classes reported feeling safe or very safe at school in 2011-13, but 8% of students reported they felt unsafe or very unsafe. Higher percentages of white students reported feeling safe or very safe (71% in 2011-13) at school than students of other racial/ethnic backgrounds.
In 2011-13, about 1 in 4 California 7th graders reported that they had been afraid of being beaten up at school at least once in the past year. The vast majority of students in 7th, 9th, 11th grades and non-traditional classes said they had not carried a gun (95%), or a knife or other weapon (91%) to school in the past year.
Measures of school safety vary by students' levels of "school connectedness" (which refers to students being treated fairly, feeling close to people, feeling happy, feeling part of school, and feeling safe at school). For example, in 2011-13, reports of physical fighting at school were less common among youth with higher levels of school connectedness than among those with low levels of school connectedness.
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