School Safety (see data for this topic)
- Websites with Related Information
- Adolescent Violence Prevention: Professional Resource Guide, Maternal and Child Health Digital Library
- California Dept. of Education: Safe Schools
- California Safe and Supportive Schools, WestEd
- California Safe Schools Coalition
- California School Boards Association: Safe and Supportive School Environment
- Community Matters
- CrimeSolutions.gov: Children Exposed to Violence, National Institute of Justice
- Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
- National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, American Institutes for Research
- Preventing School Violence, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, U.S. Office of Special Education Programs
- StopBullying.gov, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
- VetoViolence, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Youth.gov, Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs
- Key Reports and Research
- 2017 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Youth in Our Nation’s Schools, 2018, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Kosciw, J. G., et al.
- Advances in Research with LGBTQ Youth in Schools, 2016, Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, Heck, N. C., et al.
- California School Climate, Health, and Learning Surveys (CalSCHLS) Reports and Data, WestEd
- 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 & Prevention Institute, Wilkins, N., et al.
- Cops and No Counselors: How the Lack of School Mental Health Staff Is Harming Students, 2019, American Civil Liberties Union, Whitaker, A., et al.
- Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings from the School Survey on Crime and Safety, 2019, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Diliberti, M., et al.
- Cyberbullying Identification, Prevention, and Response, 2019, Cyberbullying Research Center, Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W.
- LGBTQ Youth in California’s Public Schools: Differences Across the State, 2017, Williams Institute, Choi, S. K., et al.
- Portrait of Promise: The California Statewide Plan to Promote Health and Mental Health Equity, 2015, California Dept. of Public Health, Office of Health Equity
- Prevalence of Childhood Exposure to Violence, Crime, and Abuse: Results from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, 2015, JAMA Pediatrics, Finkelhor, D., et al
- Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action, 2014, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, David-Ferdon, C., & Simon, T. R.
- Prevention of Bullying in Schools, Colleges, and Universities: Research Report and Recommendations, 2013, American Educational Research Association
- 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.
- Social Bullying: Correlates, Consequences, and Prevention, 2013, National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, Stuart-Cassel, V., et al.
- The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model, 2015, Journal of School Health, Hunt, H. (Ed.)
- Understanding School Violence, 2016, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
- County/Regional Reports
- Santa Monica Youth Wellbeing Report Card, Santa Monica Cradle to Career
- More Data Sources For School Safety
- California School Climate, Health, and Learning Surveys Public Dashboards, WestEd & California Dept. of Education
- Indicators of School Crime and Safety, National Center for Education Statistics
- 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 children's school environments play a crucial role in their development and academic success. Students who feel safe and supported at school tend to have better school attendance and achievement, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors (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 young people's development, concentration, and ability to learn (4).
School safety often is compromised by bullying and harassment, which affects 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 for 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 LGBTQ youth, students with disabilities, and African American/black 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 Climate.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). School connectedness. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/protective/school_connectedness.htm
2. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2016). Understanding school violence. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/school_violence_fact_sheet-a.pdf
3. Musu, L., et al. (2019). Indicators of school crime and safety: 2018. National Center for Education Statistics & U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2019047
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: https://data.calschls.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/Prevention-of-Bullying
- Policy Implications
When students are exposed to violence or feel unsafe at school, it affects their academic performance and can negatively impact their health (1, 2). The safety of school environments can be improved by creating positive school climates, strengthening youth mental health services, revamping school discipline policies, and supporting evidence-based family and community violence prevention programs (1, 3). Strategies to strengthen school safety also should address bullying and harassment, which is a pervasive problem jeopardizing the well being of millions of students nationwide (4).
Policy options that could enhance student and staff 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 Climate, Bullying and Harassment at School, School Attendance and Discipline, and Children's Emotional 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 feelings of safety among students and staff, and other positive outcomes; such efforts should involve ongoing staff training, strategies to promote pro-social student behavior, and tiered systems of support to meet student needs (5, 6)
- Supporting family- and school-based programs that strengthen communication and help all students build social-emotional skills including teamwork, problem solving, and conflict resolution (3, 5, 6, 7)
- Expanding the workforce of qualified mental health professionals serving youth, such as school counselors and psychiatrists, and ensuring adequate training for school staff to recognize signs of emotional or behavioral problems and refer students to appropriate services (8)
- Engaging all school stakeholders—leaders, teachers, students, families, community organizations, and others—in developing and disseminating shared codes of conduct, school policies, anti-bullying statements, and bullying reporting systems; these should pay particular attention to vulnerable populations (e.g., LGBTQ youth) and include training on how to deal with bullying incidents (4, 7)
- 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 should include clear, equitable classroom behavior management practice (5, 6)
- Promoting comprehensive violence prevention strategies that are evidence-based, data-driven, tailored to the community, and led by cross-sector coalitions (1, 3, 7)
Sources for this narrative:
1. David-Ferdon, C., et al. (2016). A comprehensive technical package for the prevention of youth violence and associated risk behaviors. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/technical-packages.html
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: https://data.calschls.org/resources/chks_guidebook_2_coremodules.pdf
3. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2016). Understanding school violence. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://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/Prevention-of-Bullying
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. Council of State Governments Justice Center. Retrieved from: http://csgjusticecenter.org/youth/school-discipline-consensus-report
6. U.S. Department of Education. (2014). Guiding principles: A resource guide for improving school climate and discipline. Retrieved from: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/guiding-principles.pdf
7. David-Ferdon, C., & Simon, T. R. (2014). Preventing youth violence: Opportunities for action. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved from: https://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 & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2014/07/are-the-children-well-.html
- How Children Are Faring
According to 2015-2017 estimates, less than a quarter of California public school students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs felt very safe at school. Overall, boys were more likely to feel very safe at school than their female counterparts, as were students whose parents had a college degree. Among racial/ethnic groups with data, 25% of white youth statewide felt very safe at school, compared with 15% of their Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander peers. Estimates of feeling very unsafe at school were highest for African American/black youth, at 5%.
Across measures, it is more common for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students and those with low levels of school connectedness to feel unsafe, fear victimization, and engage in violence-related risk behaviors when compared with other youth. For example, in 2015-2017, the percentage of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth who on four or more occasions in the previous year were afraid of being beaten up at school was 6%, compared with 2% of straight youth. In the same period, an estimated 6% of students with low school connectedness were in four or more physical fights in the previous year, compared with 1% of students with high levels of connectedness.
Statewide in 2015-2017, an estimated 6% of students in non-traditional programs carried a gun at school at least once in the previous year, and 10% carried another type of weapon at least once. By comparison, 2% of students in traditional 11th grade carried a gun and 5% carried another type of weapon at school in the previous year. Across all student groups, less than 8% of youth carried a gun at school in the previous year and less than 12% carried a weapon other than a gun.
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