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Indicator 20: Safety and Security Measures Taken by Public Schools
(Last Updated: March 2018)

The percentage of schools that had a plan in place for procedures to be performed in the event of a shooting increased over time, from 79 percent in 2003–04 to 92 percent in 2015–16.

Schools use a variety of practices and procedures to promote the safety of students, faculty, and staff. Certain practices, such as locking or monitoring doors and gates, are intended to limit or control access to school campuses, while others, such as the use of metal detectors and security cameras, are intended to monitor or restrict students' and visitors' behavior on campus. Between 1999–2000 and 2009–10, as well as in 2015–16, the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) asked principals of public schools about their schools' use of safety and security measures and procedures. Principals were also asked to report whether their school had a written plan for procedures to be performed in selected scenarios. In 2013–14, data on safety and security measures and procedures and written plans for selected scenarios were collected from the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) survey of school safety and discipline.85

In the 2015–16 school year, 94 percent of public schools reported that they controlled access to school buildings by locking or monitoring doors during school hours (table 20.1). Other safety and security measures reported by public schools included the use of security cameras to monitor the school (81 percent), a requirement that faculty and staff wear badges or picture IDs (68 percent), and the enforcement of a strict dress code (53 percent). In addition, 25 percent of public schools reported the use of random dog sniffs to check for drugs, 21 percent required that students wear uniforms, 7 percent required students to wear badges or picture IDs, and 4 percent used random metal detector checks.

Use of various safety and security procedures differed by school level during the 2015–16 school year (figure 20.1 and table 20.2). For example, greater percentages of public primary schools and public middle schools than of public high schools controlled access to school buildings and required faculty and staff to wear badges or picture IDs. Additionally, a greater percentage of primary schools than of middle schools required students to wear uniforms (25 vs. 20 percent), and both percentages were greater than the percentage of high schools requiring uniforms (12 percent). The percentage of schools reporting the enforcement of a strict dress code was greater for middle schools (70 percent) than for high schools (55 percent) and primary schools (46 percent). The percentage of schools reporting the use of security cameras to monitor the school was greater for high schools (94 percent) than middle schools (89 percent), and both of these percentages were greater than the percentage for primary schools (73 percent). The same pattern was evident for the use of random dog sniffs and the use of random metal detector checks. A greater percentage of high schools (16 percent) and middle schools (13 percent) than of primary schools (3 percent) required students to wear badges or picture IDs.


Figure 20.1. Percentage of public schools that used selected safety and security measures, by school level: School year 2015–16

Figure 20.1. Percentage of public schools that used selected safety and security measures, by school level: School year 2015–16

! 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.
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 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 12.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2016.


In 2015–16, the use of various safety and security procedures also differed by school size. A greater percentage of public schools with 1,000 or more students enrolled than of those with fewer students enrolled reported the use of security cameras, a requirement that students wear badges or picture IDs, the use of random dog sniffs, and the use of random metal detector checks (table 20.2). A smaller percentage of schools with less than 300 students enrolled than of schools with higher numbers of students enrolled reported that they required faculty and staff to wear badges or picture IDs. A greater percentage of schools with 300–499 students (23 percent) and 500–999 students (25 percent) than of schools with less than 300 students or 1,000 or more students (both 16 percent) required students to wear uniforms. A similar pattern was evident for controlled access to school buildings. A greater percentage of schools with 500–999 students and 1,000 or more students (both 58 percent) than of schools with 300–499 students (49 percent) or less than 300 students (47 percent) reported the enforcement of a strict dress code.

A greater percentage of public schools located in cities than of those located in suburban areas, towns, and rural areas reported in 2015–16 that they used random metal detector checks, required students wear badges or picture IDs, and required students to wear uniforms (table 20.2). A greater percentage of schools located in cities (61 percent) and rural areas (54 percent) than of those located in suburbs (46 percent) reported that they enforced a strict dress code. A greater percentage of schools in suburban areas (81 percent) than of those in towns (66 percent), cities (64 percent), and rural areas (56 percent) required faculty or staff to wear badges or picture IDs. Random dog sniffs were reported by a greater percentage of public schools in rural areas (37 percent) and towns (31 percent) than in suburban areas (19 percent) and cities (15 percent). A greater percentage of schools in rural areas (84 percent) than of those in suburbs (78 percent) reported the use of security cameras, and a greater percentage of schools in cities (96 percent) than of those in rural areas (91 percent) reported controlled access to school buildings.

Many safety and security measures tended to be more prevalent in schools where 76 percent or more of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch than in schools where a lower percentage were eligible (table 20.2). A greater percentage of schools where 76 percent or more of students were eligible than of schools where lower percentages were eligible reported that they enforced a strict dress code, required school uniforms, and used random metal detector checks. A smaller percentage of schools where 76 percent or more of students or 25 percent or less were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (17 and 18 percent, respectively) reported the use of random dog sniffs than of schools where 26 to 50 percent of students and 51 to 75 percent of students (both 30 percent) were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. A greater percentage of schools where 25 percent or less of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (78 percent) than of schools where higher percentages of students were eligible reported requiring faculty and staff to wear badges or picture IDs. A smaller percentage of schools where 26 to 50 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced price lunch (4 percent) than of schools where any other percentage of students were eligible reported requiring students to wear badges or pictures IDs.

The percentages of public schools reporting the use of various safety and security measures in 2015–16 tended to be higher than in prior years (figure 20.2 and table 20.1). For example, the percentage of public schools reporting the use of security cameras increased from 19 percent in 1999–2000 to 81 percent in 2015–16. Similarly, the percentage of public schools reporting that they controlled access to school buildings increased from 75 percent to 94 percent during this period. From 1999–2000 to 2015–16, the following safety and security measures also increased: requiring faculty and staff to wear badges or picture IDs, use of random dog sniffs, requiring school uniforms, and requiring students to wear badges or picture IDs. Conversely, the percentage of schools that reported using random metal detector checks decreased from 7 percent in 1999–2000 to 4 percent in 2015–16. The percentage of schools reporting that they enforced a strict dress code increased from 47 percent in 1999–2000 to 58 percent in 2013–14, but the percentage in 2015–16 (53 percent) was lower than the percentage in 2013–14.


Figure 20.2. Percentage of public schools that used selected safety and security measures: School years 1999–2000, 2013–14, and 2015–16

Figure 20.2. Percentage of public schools that used selected safety and security measures: School years 1999–2000, 2013–14, and 2015–16

1 For example, locked or monitored doors.
NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school. Data for 2013–14 were collected using the Fast Response Survey System, while data for other years were collected using the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS). The 2013–14 survey was designed to allow comparisons with SSOCS data. However, 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 respondents to SSOCS did not have the option of completing the survey online. The 2013–14 survey also relied on a smaller sample. The smaller sample size and difference in survey administration may have impacted the 2013–14 results.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1999–2000 and 2015–16 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2000 and 2016; Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), "School Safety and Discipline: 2013–14," FRSS 106, 2014.


Another aspect of school safety and security is ensuring that plans are in place to be enacted in the event of specific scenarios. In 2015–16, about 96 percent of public schools reported they had a written plan for procedures to be performed in the event of a natural disaster (figure 20.3 and table 20.3).86 Ninety-four 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 a shooting increased over time, from 79 percent in 2003–04 to 92 percent in 2015–16.87


Figure 20.3. Percentage of public schools with a written plan for procedures to be performed in selected scenarios: School year 2015–16

Figure 20.3. Percentage of public schools with a written plan for procedures to be performed in selected scenarios: School year 2015–16

1 For example, earthquakes, or tornadoes.
2 For example, release of mustard gas, anthrax, smallpox, or radioactive materials.
NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2016.


In 2015–16, schools were also asked whether they had drilled students during the current school year on the use of selected emergency procedures. About 95 percent of schools had drilled students on a lockdown procedure,88 92 percent had drilled students on evacuation procedures,89 and 76 percent had drilled students on shelter-in-place procedures.90


This indicator has been updated to include 2015–16 data. For more information: Tables 20.1, 20.2, and 20.3, and Diliberti, Jackson, and Kemp (2017), (https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2017122).


85 The 2013–14 Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) survey was designed to allow comparisons with School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) data. However, 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 respondents to SSOCS did not have the option of completing the survey online. The 2013–14 survey also relied on a smaller sample. The smaller sample size and difference in survey administration may have impacted 2013–14 results.
86 For example, earthquakes or tornadoes.
87 On the 2015–16 questionnaire, the wording was changed from "Shootings" to "Active shooter."
88 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."
89 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."
90 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."