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Violence prevention

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Gun-Free Schools Act

The Gun-Free Schools Act (GFSA) was reauthorized by Section 4141 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-110). GFSA requires that each state or outlying area receiving federal funds under the ESEA have a law that requires all local education agencies in these states and outlying areas to expel from school for at least one year any student determined to have brought a firearm to school, or to have possessed a firearm at school.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education. Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. (2010). Reports on State Implementation of the Gun-Free Schools Act.

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), Indicator 19.

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