What safety and security measures are used in America's public schools?
Schools use a variety of practices and procedures to promote the safety of students, faculty, and staff. The School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) collects data on school safety and security practices by asking public school principals about their school’s use of safety and security measures, as well as whether their school had written procedures for responding to selected scenarios and whether it had emergency drills for students. SSOCS also asked schools about the presence of security staff and the availability of trainings for classroom teachers or aides on school safety and discipline provided by the school or school district.1
In the 2017–18 school year, 95 percent of public schools reported that they controlled access to school buildings by locking or monitoring doors during school hours. Other safety and security measures reported by public schools included the use of security cameras to monitor the school (83 percent), a requirement that faculty and staff wear badges or picture IDs (70 percent), and the enforcement of a strict dress code (49 percent). In addition, 27 percent of public schools reported the use of random sweeps for contraband, 20 percent required that students wear uniforms, 9 percent required students to wear badges or picture IDs, and 5 percent used random metal detector checks.
Public schools’ use of various safety and security measures differed by school characteristics during the 2017–18 school year. For example, a greater percentage of primary schools than of middle schools required students to wear uniforms (23 vs. 18 percent), and both percentages were greater than the percentage of high schools requiring uniforms (10 percent); for schools that used the measures of controlling access to school buildings and requiring faculty and staff to wear badges or picture IDs, the same pattern of percentages by school level can be observed. In contrast, greater percentages of high schools and middle schools than of primary schools reported the use of security cameras to monitor the school, the use of random sweeps for contraband, a requirement that students wear badges or picture IDs, and the use of random metal detector checks. For instance, 65 percent of high schools and 50 percent of middle schools reported the use of random sweeps for contraband, compared with 8 percent of primary schools. The percentage of schools reporting the enforcement of a strict dress code was greater for middle schools (62 percent) than for high schools (56 percent), and both percentages were greater than the percentage of primary schools enforcing a strict dress code (43 percent).
Percentage of public schools that used selected safety and security measures, by school level: School year 2017–18
! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
1 For example, locked or monitored doors or loading docks.
2 Examples of random sweeps include locker checks and dog sniffs. Examples of contraband include drugs and weapons.
NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school. Primary schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not higher than grade 3 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 8. Middle schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not lower than grade 4 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 9. High schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not lower than grade 9.
1 In 2013–14, data on many of these items were collected from the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) “School Safety and Discipline” survey. In this Fast Fact, data for 2013–14 were collected using FRSS, while data for all other years were collected using SSOCS. The 2013–14 FRSS survey was designed to allow comparisons with SSOCS data. However, all respondents to the 2013–14 survey could choose either to complete the survey on paper (and mail it back) or to complete the survey online, whereas all respondents to SSOCS had only the option of completing a paper survey prior to 2017–18, when SSOCS experimented with offering an online option to some respondents. The 2013–14 FRSS survey also relied on a smaller sample than SSOCS. The FRSS survey’s smaller sample size and difference in survey administration may have impacted the 2013–14 results.
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