Skip Navigation
small NCES header image
Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2011
NCES 2012-002
February 2012

Indicator 20: Safety and Security Measures Taken by Public Schools

During the 2009–10 school year, 93 percent of public schools reported that they had limited the access to social networking websites from school computers, and 91 percent reported that they had prohibited the use of cell phones and text messaging devices during school hours.

Public schools use a variety of practices and procedures to promote the safety of students and staff. In the School Survey on Crime and Safety, public school principals were asked about their schools' use of safety and security measures and procedures. Certain practices, such as locked or monitored doors or gates, are intended to limit or control access to school campuses, while others, such as metal detectors, security cameras, and limiting access to social networking websites, are intended to monitor or restrict students' and visitors' behavior on campus.

In the 2009–10 school year, nearly all public schools reported that they required visitors to sign in or check in (99 percent) (table 20.1). Other frequently reported safety and security measures included limiting access to social networking websites from school computers (93 percent), controlling access to school buildings by locking or monitoring doors during school hours (92 percent), and prohibiting the use of cell phones and text messaging devices during school hours (91 percent) (figure 20.1). In addition, 63 percent of public schools reported that they had an electronic notification system for a schoolwide emergency, and 36 percent reported that they had a structured, anonymous threat reporting system in place.

The use of safety and security measures varied by school level during the 2009–10 school year. In general, higher percentages of high schools than middle or primary schools and higher percentages of middle schools than primary schools reported using the following safety and security measures: drug testing for athletes; drug testing for students in extracurricular activities;58 requiring students to wear badges or picture IDs; random dog sniffs to check for drugs;40 random sweeps for contraband;59,60, and using security cameras to monitor the school40 (table 20.2). For example, 84 percent of high schools, 73 percent of middle schools, and 51 percent of primary schools reported that they used security cameras to monitor their schools. In addition, the percentages of middle schools (71 percent) and high schools (67 percent) that reported having an electronic notification system for a schoolwide emergency were higher than the percentage of primary schools with such a system (61 percent), and the percentages of middle schools (48 percent) and high schools (46 percent) having a structured, anonymous threat reporting system in place were higher than the percentage of primary schools (30 percent) having such a system in place. However, a lower percentage of high schools (86 percent) than middle schools and primary schools (94 percent each) reported controlling access to buildings during school hours, and the percentage of high schools (80 percent) that reported prohibiting the use of cell phones and text messaging devices was lower than the corresponding percentages of primary schools (93 percent) and middle schools (97 percent). The percentage of higher schools (10 percent) that reported requiring students to wear uniforms was lower than the percentages of middle schools (19 percent) and primary schools (22 percent) with such a requirement.

In the 2009–10 school year, the use of safety and security measures also differed by school enrollment size. Higher percentages of public schools with 1,000 or more students than schools with fewer students reported the use of the following safety and security measures: controlling access to grounds during school hours; drug testing for athletes; requiring students to wear badges or picture IDs; metal detector checks on students (including both random checks and requiring students to pass through checks daily); random dog sniffs to check for drugs; having a structured, anonymous threat reporting system in place; and using security cameras to monitor the school. For example, 56 percent of schools with an enrollment size of 1,000 or more students reported having a structured, anonymous threat reporting system, compared with 38 percent of schools with an enrollment size of 500–999 students, 32 percent of schools with an enrollment size of 300–499 students, and 28 percent of schools with an enrollment size of less than 300 students.

Locale and the school's percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch were also associated with the use of safety and security measures in the 2009–10 school year. Higher percentages of city schools than schools in suburban, town, and rural areas reported controlling access to school grounds during school hours, conducting random metal detector checks, and requiring students to wear uniforms. For example, 35 percent of city schools reported requiring students to wear uniforms, compared with 19 percent of suburban schools, 10 percent of schools in towns, and 9 percent of rural schools reporting such a requirement. Higher percentages of high-poverty schools (where 76 percent or more students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) than low-poverty schools (where 25 percent or less of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) reported controlling access to school grounds during school hours, requiring students to wear badges or picture IDs, conducting random metal detector checks on students, and requiring students to wear uniforms. For instance, 11 percent of high-poverty schools reported conducting random metal detector checks on students, compared with 1 percent of low-poverty schools reporting such checks.

The percentage of schools using various security measures has changed over time. Between the 1999–2000 and 2009–10 school years, the percentages of public schools reporting the use of the following safety and security measures increased: controlling access to buildings during school hours (from 75 to 92 percent); controlling access to school grounds during school hours (from 34 to 46 percent); requiring faculty to wear badges or picture IDs (from 25 to 63 percent); using one or more security cameras to monitor the school (from 19 to 61 percent); providing telephones in most classrooms (from 45 to 74 percent); and requiring that students wear uniforms (from 12 to 19 percent) (figure 20.2 and table 20.1). In addition, between the 2007–08 and 2009–10 school years, there was an increase in the percentage of schools reporting the use of an electronic notification system for a schoolwide emergency (from 43 to 63 percent) as well as an increase in the percentage of schools that reported having a structured, anonymous threat reporting system (from 31 to 36 percent).


58 Students in extracurricular activities other than athletics.
59 One or more checks, sweeps, or cameras.
60 For example, drugs or weapons. Does not include dog sniffs.


Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.