RELEASE: Evidence-Backed Strategies Should Guide School Security Efforts

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new report analyzing the effectiveness and unintended consequences of hardening schools. Over the past few decades, mass shootings at American schools have prompted federal and state officials to increase investment in these products and services, propelling the industry to more than $2.7 billion in total sales annually.

While so much more is being spent on school security, this report finds that efforts have not been proven effective and many have had severe unintended consequences—making many students, particularly students of color and students with disabilities, feel much less safe in their schools. Specifically, visible, stringent practices carry the gravest consequences, including increased student arrests and hindered teaching and learning abilities due to out-of-school suspensions. Additionally, the report finds that many of the school security organizations that are supposed to be advancing students’ security interests are in fact led mostly by security industry professionals.

Yesterday, the Federal Commission on School Safety released recommendations that purport to improve school safety. However, the strategies outlined fail to address the role that guns play in mass shootings at America’s schools and could exacerbate disparities in school discipline enforcement. To truly enhance safety at America’s schools, policymakers should:

  • Invest in evidence-based strategies that are proven to be effective for all students;
  • Support more research on effective approaches to improving school climate and increasing school safety, with a specific focus on preventing school violence;
  • Establish clear time frames to implement new interventions on school violence and to measure their effectiveness—re-evaluating or discontinuing ineffective strategies; and
  • Close numerous gaps in federal and state gun laws by enacting universal background checks on all firearm purchases and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“Discussions around school safety have increasingly focused on arming teachers, installing metal detectors, adding school resource officers, and other visible security measures,” said  Bayliss Fiddiman, senior policy analyst for K-12 Education Policy at the Center for American Progress. “While some of these measures might be understandable in the wake of violence, they’re unfortunately not effective at making schools safer and can actually be detrimental to students, particularly students of color and students with disabilities. Instead, policymakers and government officials need to consider evidence-based strategies for creating positive, safe, and welcoming school environments for all students.”

Please click here to read: “Smart Investments for Safer Schools” by Bayliss Fiddiman, Ashley Jeffrey, and Scott Sargrad.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at cseeberger@americanprogress.org or 202.741.6292.