Skip Navigation
Click to open navigation

Indicator 20: Safety and Security Measures Taken by Public Schools
(Last Updated: May 2016)

In the 2013–14 school year, about 88 percent of public schools reported they had a written plan for procedures to be performed in the event of a shooting, and 70 percent of these schools had drilled students on the use of the plan.

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. In the 2013–14 school year, principals of public schools were asked about their schools’ use of safety and security measures and procedures in the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) survey of school safety and discipline. Another measure of safety and security, collected in the FRSS survey of school safety and discipline, is the presence of security staff in public schools during the school year. Principals were also asked to report whether their school had a written plan for procedures to be performed in selected crises, as well as whether they had drilled students during the current school year on the use of a plan. In prior years, data on safety and security measures and procedures, presence of security staff at school, and written and drilled plans for selected crises were collected from the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS).

In the 2013–14 school year, 93 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 (75 percent), a requirement that faculty and staff wear badges or picture IDs (68 percent), and the enforcement of a strict dress code (58 percent). In addition, 24 percent of public schools reported the use of random dog sniffs to check for drugs, 20 percent required that students wear uniforms, 9 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 2013–14 school year (figure 20.1 and table 20.2). For example, higher percentages of public primary schools and public middle schools than of public high schools and combined elementary/secondary schools (referred to as high/combined schools) controlled access to school buildings and required faculty and staff to wear badges or picture IDs. Additionally, a higher percentage of primary schools required students to wear uniforms (23 percent) than high/combined schools (15 percent). Conversely, higher percentages of high/combined schools and middle schools than of primary schools reported the enforcement of a strict dress code; a requirement that students wear badges or picture IDs; and the use of random metal detector checks. A higher percentage of high/combined schools reported the use of security cameras to monitor the school (89 percent) than middle schools (84 percent), and both of these percentages were higher than the percentage of primary schools (67 percent) that reported the use of security cameras. The same pattern was evident for the use of random dog sniffs.


Figure 20.1. Percentage of public schools that used selected safety and security measures, by school level: School year 2013–14

Figure 20.1. Percentage of public schools that used selected safety and security measures, by school level: School year 2013–14

! 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. Combined schools include all other combinations of grades, including K–12 schools. Separate data on high schools and combined schools are not available.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), “School Safety and Discipline: 2013–14,” FRSS 106, 2014.


In 2013–14, use of various safety and security procedures also differed by school size. A higher percentage of public schools with 1,000 or more students enrolled than those with fewer students enrolled reported the use of security cameras, a requirement that students wear badges or picture IDs, use of random dog sniffs, and use of random metal detector checks (table 20.2). A lower percentage of schools with less than 300 students enrolled reported that they required faculty and staff to wear badges or picture IDs (46 percent) than schools with greater numbers of students enrolled.

A higher percentage of public schools located in cities than those in suburban areas, towns, and rural areas reported that they enforced a strict dress code, required students to wear uniforms, and used random metal detector checks in 2013–14 (table 20.2). A higher percentage of schools in suburban areas required faculty or staff to wear badges or picture IDs (79 percent) than those in towns (67 percent), cities (67 percent), and rural areas (60 percent). Random dog sniffs were reported by a higher percentage of public schools in rural areas (35 percent) and towns (32 percent) than suburban areas (19 percent) and cities (11 percent).

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 (table 20.2). A higher percentage of these schools reported they enforced a strict dress code, required school uniforms, and required students to wear badges or picture IDs than schools with lower percentages of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Conversely, a lower percentage of schools where 76 percent or more of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch reported the use of random dog sniffs (14 percent) than schools where lower percentages of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. A higher percentage of schools where 25 percent or less of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch reported requiring faculty and staff to wear badges or picture IDs (82 percent) than schools where higher percentages of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

The percentages of public schools reporting the use of various safety and security measures in 2013–14 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 75 percent in 2013–14. Similarly, the percentage of public schools reporting that they controlled access to school buildings increased from 75 percent to 93 percent during this time. From 1999–2000 to 2013–14, the following safety and security measures also increased: requiring faculty and staff to wear badges or picture IDs, enforcing a strict dress code, 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 2013–14.


Figure 20.2. Percentage of public schools that used selected safety and security measures, by year: School years 1999–2000, 2009–10, and 2013–14

Figure 20.2. Percentage of public schools that used selected safety and security measures, by year: School years 1999–2000, 2009–10, and 2013–14

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 earlier 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 change in survey administration may have impacted 2013–14 results.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1999–2000 and 2009–10 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2000 and 2010; Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), “School Safety and Discipline: 2013–14,” FRSS 106, 2014.


In the 2013–14 school year, 43 percent of public schools reported the presence of one or more security guards, security personnel, School Resource Officers, or sworn law enforcement officers at their school at least once a week during the school year (table 20.3).76 The percentage of public schools reporting the presence of security staff did not differ measurably between 2013–14 and prior years in which data on this item were collected. However, the percentage of public schools reporting the presence of full-time security staff was lower in 2013–14 (24 percent) than in prior years, while the percentage of public schools reporting part-time-only security staff in 2013–14 (19 percent) was higher than it was in prior years.

About 29 percent of public primary schools reported the presence of one or more security staff at their school at least once a week in 2013–14. The percentage of primary schools reporting security staff was lower than the percentages of middle schools and high/ combined schools reporting the presence of security staff (63 and 64 percent, respectively).

Differences in the presence of security staff were also found by other school characteristics. Public schools with greater numbers of students were more likely to report the presence of security staff. For example, 22 percent of schools with less than 300 students enrolled reported the presence of security staff at least once a week, compared with 87 percent of schools with 1,000 or more students enrolled. The percentage of public schools in rural areas that reported the presence of one or more security staff at least once a week during the 2013–14 school year (36 percent) was lower than the percentages of schools in cities (45 percent), suburban areas (48 percent), and towns (48 percent).

Another aspect of school safety and security is ensuring plans are in place to be enacted in the event of a crisis situation. In 2013–14, about 94 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 20.4).77 Eighty-three percent of these schools reported that they had drilled students on the use of the plan. About 88 percent of public schools reported they had a plan for procedures to be performed in the event of a shooting, and 70 percent of these schools had drilled students on the use of the plan. Public schools also reported having plans in place for bomb threats or incidents (88 percent); chemical, biological, or radiological threats or incidents78 (60 percent); and hostages (50 percent).


Figure 20.3. Percentage of public schools with a written plan for procedures to be performed in selected crises and percentage that have drilled students on the use of a plan: School year 2013–14

Figure 20.3. Percentage of public schools with a written plan for procedures to be performed in selected crises and percentage that have drilled students on the use of a plan: School year 2013–14

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, Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), “School Safety and Discipline: 2013–14,” FRSS 106, 2014.


This indicator repeats information from the Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2015 report. For more information: Tables 20.1, 20.2, 20.3, and 20.4, Neiman (2011), (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2011320), and Gray and Lewis (2015), (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2015051).


76 Security guards or security personnel do not include law enforcement. School Resource Officers include all career law enforcement officers with arrest authority who have specialized training and are assigned to work in collaboration with school organizations. Sworn law enforcement includes sworn law enforcement officers who are not School Resource Officers.
77 For example, earthquakes or tornadoes.
78 For example, release of mustard gas, anthrax, smallpox, or radioactive materials.