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Violence prevention

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Gun-Free Schools Act

The federal Gun-Free Schools Act (GFSA) enacted in 1994 requires U.S. public school systems to report any incident of a student bringing a firearm to school or being in possession of a firearm on school property. The law applies to all states and jurisdictions funded under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, which include the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE); and the insular areas of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Under federal law, states must also enact their own laws that require local education agencies (LEAs) to expel students for firearm offenses for a period of no less than 1 year. School administrators, in compliance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 (2004), may modify these expulsions on a case-by-case basis for students with disabilities. State education agencies (SEAs) must submit data to the secretary of education on an annual basis, reporting the number of students who were expelled for firearm offenses under the law during the 12-month reporting period. The GFSA also mandates that states and LEAs enact policies to refer students to the criminal justice system when they are in possession of a firearm on school property.

SOURCE: National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments. (2022). State Report on the Implementation of the Gun-Free Schools Act: U.S. States and Other Jurisdictions 2019–20 School Year. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from

Selected Measures Taken by Public Schools

In 2019–20, over 90 percent of public schools had a written plan for procedures to be performed in the event of each of the following events: a natural disaster,1 an active shooter, bomb threats or incidents, and a suicide threat or incident. These percentages were higher in 2019–20 than in 2009–10 for procedures in the event of an active shooter (96 vs. 84 percent) and of a suicide threat or incident (91 vs. 75 percent). In 2019–20, about 52 percent of public schools reported having a written plan for procedures to be performed in the event of a pandemic disease. This percentage was higher than the percentage reported in 2017–18 (46 percent).2

In 2019–20, schools were also asked whether they had drilled students during the current school year on the use of selected emergency procedures. About 98 percent of public schools had drilled students on a lockdown procedure,3 94 percent on evacuation procedures,4 and 92 percent on shelter-in-place procedures.5

1 For example, earthquakes or tornadoes.
2 2017–18 is the first year in which this item was collected in the School Survey on Crime and Safety.
3 Defined for respondents as “a procedure that involves securing school buildings and grounds during incidents that pose an immediate threat of violence in or around the school.”
4 Defined for respondents as “a procedure that requires all students and staff to leave the building. The evacuation plan may encompass relocation procedures and include backup buildings to serve as emergency shelters. Evacuation also includes ‘reverse evacuation,’ a procedure for schools to return students to the building quickly if an incident occurs while students are outside.”
5 Defined for respondents as “a procedure that requires all students and staff to remain indoors because it is safer inside the building or a room than outside. Depending on the threat or hazard, students and staff may be required to move to rooms that can be sealed (such as in the event of a chemical or biological hazard) or that are without windows, or to a weather shelter (such as in the event of a tornado).”

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Safety and Security Practices at Public Schools. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from

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