School safety is defined as schools and school-related activities where students are safe from violence, bullying, harassment, and substance use.
Safe schools promotes the protection of students from violence, exposure to weapons and threats, theft, bullying, and the sale or use of illegal substances on school grounds. School safety is linked to improved student and school outcomes. In particular, emotional and physical safety in school are related to academic performance. At the same time, students who are victims of physical or emotional harassment or who are involved in the sale or use of illegal substances on school grounds are at risk for poor attendance, course failure and dropout.
The levels of crime and substance abuse that a school experiences are strongly correlated to school-wide test scores, graduation rates, and attendance rates. In schools with higher levels of collective hostility—as measured by student reports of feeling unsafe, the presence of gangs, and fighting between different groups of students—student reading achievement suffers.
Programs to support character education and learning about social and emotional skills can substantially improve students' physical and emotional safety. This includes fostering emotional support between peers and staff, preventing hate speech, and implementing programs that teach social and emotional skills such as conflict resolution, anger management, and positive communication. Experimental research on these types of programs has shown that effective programs enhance social-emotional skills and attitudes, increase the frequency of positive social behavior, and reduce the frequency and severity of conduct issues and emotional problems.
In the 2008-09 school year, 28 percent of students ages 12-18 were bullied at school. The prevention of all forms of bullying, including threats, harassment, social isolation, or spreading rumors, particularly towards those groups at particular risk of being victimized by bullying, is typical of schools with a positive climate.
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