Safety

School bus stop

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.

School safety affects all students.

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. 

School climate improvement efforts promote emotional safety.

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.

Bullying is an example of the lack of physical and emotional safety many students experience.

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.

References

Boccanfuso, B., & Kuhfeld, M. (2011). Multiple responses, promising results: Evidence-based, nonpunitive alternatives to zero tolerance. Washington, DC: Child Trends.

Davis, J. E., & Jordan, W. T. (1994). The effects of school context, structure, and experiences on African American males in middle and high school. Journal of Negro Education, 63, 570-587.

Furlong, M. J., Whipple, A. D., St. Jean, G., Simental, J., Soliz, A., & Punthuna, S. (2003). Multiple contexts of school engagement: Moving toward a unifying framework for educational research and practice. The California School Psychologist, 8, 99-114.

DeVoe, J., & Murphy, C. (2011). Student Reports of Bullying and Cyber-Bullying: Results From the 2009 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (No. NCES 2011-336). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

Fekkes, M., Pijpers, F. I. M., & Verloove-Vanhorick, S. P. (2006). Effects of Antibullying School Program on Bullying and Health Complaints. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 160(638-644).

Glew, G. M., Fan, M.-Y., Katon, W., Rivara, F. P., & Kernic, M. A. (2005). Bullying, Psychosocial Adjustment, and Academic Performance in Elementary School. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 159, 1026-1031.

Gottfredson, G., & Gottfredson, D. (2001). What schools do to prevent problem behavior and promote safe environments. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 12(4), 313-344.

Harper, K. (2010). Measuring School Climate. Paper presented at the Safe and Supportive Schools Grantee Meeting, Washington, DC.

Mayer, G. R. (2001). Antisocial behavior: Its causes and prevention within our schools. Education and Treatment of Children, 24, 414-429.

Nansel, T. R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R. S., Ruan, W. J., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying behaviors among US youth: prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 285(16), 2094-2100.

Neild, R. C., Furstenberg Jr., F. F., & Stoner-Eby, S. (2002). Connecting Entrance and Departure: The Transition to Ninth Grade and High School Dropout. Unpublished.

Osher, D., & Kendziora, K. (2010). Building Conditions for Learning and Healthy Adolescent Development: Strategic Approaches. In B. Doll, W. Pfohl & J. Yoon (Eds.), Handbook of Youth Prevention Science. New York: Routledge

Osher, D., Sprague, J., Weissberg, R. P., Axelrod, J., Keenan, S., Kendziora, K., et al. (2008). A comprehensive approach to promoting social, emotional, and academic growth in contemporary schools. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology V (Vol. 4, pp. 1263–1278). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

Osher, D., Dwyer, K., & Jimerson, S. R. (2006). Safe, supportive, and effective schools. In S. R. Jimerson & M. J. Furlong (Eds.), Handbook of school violence and school safety: From research to practice (pp. 51-72). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Ripski, M. B., & Gregory, A. (Oct-Dec2009). Unfair, Unsafe, and Unwelcome: Do High School Students' Perceptions of Unfairness, Hostility, and Victimization in School Predict Engagement and Achievement? . Journal of School Violence, 8(4), 355-375.

Scales, P. C., & Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2004). Service to others: A gateway asset for school success and healthy development. In National Youth Leadership Council, Growing to greatness: The State of Service-Learning Project (pp. 26-32). St. Paul, MN: National Youth Leadership Council.

Skiba, R., & Rausch, M. K. (2004). The Relationship between Achievement, Discipline, and Race: An Analysis of Factors Predicting ISTEP Scores. Bloomington, IN: Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

Steinberg, M. P., Allensworth, E., & Johnson, D. W. (2011). Student and Teacher Safety in Chicago Public Schools: The Roles of Community Context and School Social Organization. Chicago: Consortium on Chicago School Research.

 

Featured Resources

Front page of the Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety guide

Shares what the Federal Commission on School Safety found in research and recommends to advance safety in schools via prevention, protection and mitigation, and response and recovery. It touches on promoting mental health, addressing related discipline issues, and violence in schools.

Federal Commission on School Safety
Video still featuring a teacher

Highlights efforts across Ohio to improve the health and academic outcomes of students in public schools through expanding access to health care. Features the stories of districts that are implementing SBHC models throughout Ohio and interviews with school district and health care professionals.

Cover page of the Human Trafficking 101 for School Administrators and Staff guide

Helps school professionals better understand the issue of human trafficking and who is at risk for victimization. Included are a list of “red flags” that administrators and staff reference when identifying potential victims and hotlines to call to make a report.  

Blue Campaign
Graphic of school teachers cheering

Assists users in evaluating their respective school’s safety posture across ten foundational elements of school safety. Builds awareness within the school community to promote vigilance and builds capacity to respond to incidents.

Front cover page of the EOP Assist Software Application (app) resource

Designs access to help schools create and update high-quality school emergency operations plans (EOPS). Navigates end users through a six-step planning process recommended in the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (School Guide) and obtains a unique and downloadable school EOP.
 

Front cover page of the Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans: A Companion to the School Guide resource

Provides an overview of information for districts working with school planning teams creating operation plans that are specific to emergencies. At the same time, highlights a report to assist schools and school districts in developing customized school EOPs with first reponders.

U.S. Department of Education
Teachers having a conversation with students

Provides best practices and includes resources school leaders and teachers can utilize as they work to achieve a positive school climate, lower disciplinary issues and enhance school safety.

U.S. Department of Education
United States Secret Service logo with landscape background

Dives deep into nine years of school tragedies, and it advocates for schools to establish comprehensive targeted violence prevention programs. Provides prevention measures to identify students of concern and assess their potential risk for engaging in violence or other harmful activities.

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