Following mass shooting incidents in 2018, education, community, and state leaders are exploring a variety of strategies for improving school safety, including drills, school-based law enforcement officers, metal detectors, tip lines, surveillance cameras, and armed staff who are not police or security.

Many of these approaches are intuitive reactions to this critical issue. However, it’s crucial for stakeholders to analyze the research behind school safety measures to better inform legislation, policy, and practice decisions that will affect students, staff, and the entire community.

Led by Anthony Petrosino, WestEd’s Justice & Prevention Research Center (JPRC) works to advance the research knowledge base on preventing crime and violence, and other high-risk behaviors; improve adult and juvenile justice systems; and increase safety for all children, adults, schools, and communities.

Recently the JPRC led a series of briefs that help to clarify some misconceptions about incidents of school violence and explore safety measures through an evidence-based lens.

What Do We Know About the Effects of School-Based Law Enforcement on School Safety?

Public school districts and police departments often collaborate to address school-based violence and other threats to the safety and well-being of students, teachers, and staff.

As a result of these partnerships, law enforcement officers have become an increasingly common presence in schools around the country, even at the elementary school level.

But what does research tell us about the impact of school-based law enforcement on school safety outcomes? This brief presents a definition of school-based law enforcement and summarizes some of the relevant research about its effects on students and schools.

Five Misconceptions About School Shootings

School shootings are the subject of debate in the media and in communities across the United States, and there is much discussion about prevention and the root causes of such attacks. But what does research say about these tragic events and their perpetrators? Do all perpetrators fit a specific profile? And what meaningful steps can schools and communities take to reduce the likelihood of these events?

This brief describes and refutes five common misconceptions about school shootings and suggests an evidence-based strategy to reduce the probability of attacks.

Are Metal Detectors Effective at Making Schools Safer?

Metal detectors are used to improve safety at such places as government buildings and airports, but are they effective at making schools safer?

To address questions about what impact such devices may have on day-to-day safety and on what happens during school violence events, this brief summarizes what is known about metal detectors in schools and in other settings, including their prevalence in schools, effectiveness, financial cost, and potential impact on students and the learning environment as a whole.

Learn More About How to Improve School Safety

Improving School Safety: Policy Trends, Assessment, and Prevention

Join WestEd for this 90-minute archived webinar that discusses the steps that state and local leaders are taking to prevent school violence. Renowned school safety experts explore the evidence base behind these promising approaches, and what school administrators and leaders can do to implement these strategies systemwide.


View this webinar.

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