To the general public, thoughts on school safety are often shaped by high-profile school shootings and other tragic incidents that dominate a news cycle. For educators, law enforcement, and others who work to keep our schools safe, however, issues such as bullying, harassment, and school discipline policies are at the forefront of their thoughts and can affect school safety on a daily basis.
Additionally, as schools continue to reopen following closures due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse was launched as a resource to support students, families, teachers, and other school personnel. A collection of lessons learned and best practices, the site provides resources to identify and support the needs of all students to ensure their safety and that all have access to a high-quality education.
Overall, data suggest that school crime rates have dropped nationwide since the early 1990s. Between 2009 and 2019, the total percentage of students ages 12-18 who reported being victimized at school during the previous 6 months decreased from 4 percent to 2 percent. Additionally, about 22 percent of students reported being bullied at school during the 2019 school year, which was lower than in 2009 (28 percent).
Since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, school security measures have increased — nearly 100 percent of schools serving 12- to 18-year-olds use at least one safety or security measure. This includes locked doors, security cameras, hallway supervision, controlled building access, metal detectors, and locker checks. However, the use of these safety measures varies by school population and location.
In February 2021, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) hosted the Virtual Conference on School Safety: Bridging Research to Practice to Safeguard Our Schools, which provided accounts of NIJ-funded projects to develop and evaluate efforts to improve the safety of students in K-12 schools. The projects discussed are among the approximately 100 that NIJ has funded through the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative and with funding from the STOP School Violence Act to improve the safety of our nation’s schools and students through rigorous research that produces practical knowledge.
Launched in 2020, SchoolSafety.gov offers schools and districts actionable recommendations to create a safe and supportive learning environment where students can thrive and grow. The site covers critical areas of interest, including mental health, emergency planning, bullying, and more.
Further, to help school leaders make decisions when implementing school safety programs, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Model Programs Guide captures ratings of programs that focus on various aspects of school safety, including bullying, school violence, and school climate.
To learn more, visit the following pages for information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal sources: