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Violence prevention

Do you have information on efforts to prevent violence in our schools?


Gun-Free Schools Act

The federal Gun-Free Schools Act (GFSA) was introduced into law as part of the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994. The federal law requires states funded under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 to have a state law in effect that requires local education agencies (LEAs) to expel students for firearm offenses for a period of no less than 1 year. School administrators may modify these expulsions on a case-by-case basis for students with disabilities in compliance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 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. Under the provisions of the GFSA, U.S. public school systems must report any incident when a student brings a firearm to school or is in possession of a firearm on school property.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education. National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments. (2021). State Report on the Implementation of the Gun-Free Schools Act: U.S. States and Other Jurisdictions 2018–19 School Year.

Selected Measures Taken by Public Schools

In 2017–18, ninety-one percent of public schools reported they had a plan for procedures to be performed in the event of bomb threats or incidents. The percentage of schools that had a plan in place for procedures to be performed in the event of an active shooter increased over time, from 79 percent in 2003–04 to 92 percent in 2017–18. 1

In 2017–18, schools were also asked whether they had drilled students during the current school year on the use of selected emergency procedures. About 96 percent of public schools had drilled students on a lockdown procedure,2 93 percent had drilled students on evacuation procedures,3 and 83 percent had drilled students on shelter-in-place procedures.4

1 Prior to 2015–16, “active shooter” was described in the questionnaire as “shootings.”
2 Defined for respondents as “a procedure that involves occupants of a school building being directed to remain confined to a room or area within a building with specific procedures to follow. A lockdown may be used when a crisis occurs outside of the school and an evacuation would be dangerous. A lockdown may also be called for when there is a crisis inside and movement within the school will put students in jeopardy. All exterior doors are locked and students and staff stay in their classrooms.”
3 Defined for respondents as “a procedure that requires all students and staff to leave the building. While evacuating to the school’s field makes sense for a fire drill that only lasts a few minutes, it may not be an appropriate location for a longer period of time. The evacuation plan should encompass relocation procedures and include backup buildings to serve as emergency shelters, such as nearby community centers, religious institutions, businesses, or other schools. Evacuation also includes ‘reverse evacuation,’ a procedure for schools to return students to the building quickly if an incident occurs while students are outside.”
4 Defined for respondents as “a procedure similar to a lockdown in that the occupants are to remain on the premises; however, shelter-in-place is designed to use a facility and its indoor atmosphere to temporarily separate people from a hazardous outdoor environment. Everyone would be brought indoors and building personnel would close all windows and doors and shut down the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC). This would create a neutral pressure in the building, meaning the contaminated air would not be drawn into the building.”

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2019 (NCES 2020-063), Safety and Security Practices at Public Schools.

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