School Safety

School Safety



Making Safer Schools


When crime, drugs, and violence spill over from the streets into the schools, providing a safe learning environment becomes increasingly difficult. More students carry weapons for protection. Gunfights replace fistfights. Many students must travel through gang turf or groups of drug dealers. Violence becomes an acceptable way to settle conflicts

When this happens, children cannot learn and teachers cannot teach.

Creating a safe place where children can learn and grow depends on a partnership among students, parents, teachers, and other community institutions to prevent school violence.

Find out how crime threatens schools in your community.
Take actions to protect children.
Promote nonviolent ways to manage conflict.

How do these ideas translate into action? Here are some practical suggestions for young people, parents, school staff, and others in the community.


Settle arguments with words, not fists or weapons. Learn how if you don’t know how.
Don’t carry guns, knives, or other weapons to school.
Report crimes or suspicious activities to the police, school authorities, or parents.
Tell a school official immediately if you see another student with a gun, knife, or other weapon.
Tell a teacher, parent, or trusted adult if you’re worried about a bully or threats of violence by another student.
Learn safe routes for traveling to and from school and stick to them. Know good places to seek help.
Don’t use alcohol or other drugs, and stay away from places and people associated with them.
Get involved in your school’s anti-violence activities — have poster contests against violence, hold anti-drug rallies, volunteer to counsel peers. If there’s no program at your school, help start one.


Sharpen your parenting skills. Emphasize and build on your children’s strengths.
Teach your children how to reduce their risks of becoming crime victims.
Know where your kids are, what they are doing, and whom they are with at all times. Set clear rules in advance about acceptable activities.
Ask your children about what goes on during the school day. Listen to what they say and take their concerns and worries seriously.
Help your children learn nonviolent ways to handle frustration, anger, and conflict.
Do not allow your child to carry guns, knives, or other weapons.
Become involved in your child’s school activities — PTA, field trips, and helping out in class or the lunch room.
Work with other parents in your neighborhood to start a McGruff House or other block parent programs. A McGruff House is a reliable source of help for children in emergency or frightening situations. For information call 801-486-8691.

School Staff

Evaluate your school’s safety objectively. Set targets for improvement. Be honest about crime problems and work toward bettering the situation.
Develop consistent disciplinary policies, good security procedures, and response plans for emergencies.
Train school personnel in conflict resolution, problem solving, drug prevention, crisis intervention, cultural sensitivity, classroom management, and counseling skills. Make sure they can recognize trouble signs and identify potentially violent students.
Encourage students to talk about worries, questions, and fears about what’s going on in their schools, homes, and neighborhoods. Listen carefully to what they say.
If a student makes a threat of violence, take him or her seriously. Address the problem immediately and act to prevent a potential conflict.
When something violent and frightening happens at school or in the neighborhood, take time to talk about it. Discuss the consequences and get students to think about what other choices besides violence might have been available. Get help from trained counselors if necessary.
Work with students, parents, law enforcement, local governments, and community-based groups to develop wider-scope crime prevention efforts.

Community Members

Law enforcement can report on the type of crimes in the surrounding community and suggest ways to make schools safer.
Have police or organized groups of adults patrol routes students take to and from school.
Community-based groups, church organizations, and other service groups can provide counseling, extended learning programs, before-and after-school activities, and other community crime prevention programs.
State and local governments can develop model school safety plans and provide funding for schools to implement the programs.
Local businesses can provide apprenticeship programs, participate in adopt-a-school programs, or serve as mentors to area students.
Colleges and universities can offer conflict management courses to teachers or assist school officials in implementing violence prevention curricula.


Back To School Tips For Parents


Make sure your child has enough change to make a phone call or they carry a telephone calling card.
Plan a walking route to school or the bus stop. Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings and use intersections with crossing guards. Test the route with your child. Tell him or her to stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields, and other places where there aren’t many people around.
Teach children — whether walking, biking, or riding the bus to school — to obey all traffic signals, signs, traffic officers, and safety patrols. Remind them to be extra careful in rainy, foggy, or snowy weather.
Make sure they walk to and from school with others — a friend, neighbor, brother, sister.
When car pooling, drop off and pick up children as close to school as possible. Don’t leave until they have entered the school yard or building.
Teach your child never to talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from strangers. Remember, a stranger is anyone you or your children doesn’t know well or doesn’t trust.

If your child is home alone for a few hours after school:

Set up rules for locking doors and windows, answering the door or telephone.
Make sure he or she checks in with you or a neighbor immediately after school.
Agree on rules for inviting friends over and for going to a friend’s house when no adult is home.
Take time to listen carefully to children’s fears and feelings about people or places that scare them or make them feel uneasy. Tell them to trust their instincts. Take complaints about bullies and other concerns seriously.

Back To School Tips For Children


To help you stay safe and healthy this school year, McGruff the Crime Dog says:

Work out a safe route to school with your parents. Choose the quickest way with the fewest street crossings and use intersections with crossing guards. Stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields, and other places where there aren’t many people around.
Whenever possible walk to and from school with a friend, neighbor, brother, or sister. Don’t go by yourself.
Be sure you know your home phone number (including area code) and address, the numbers of your parents at work and of another trusted adult, and how to use 911 for emergencies.
Never talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from strangers. Remember, a stranger is anyone you or your parents don’t know well and trust.
If you bike or skate to school, wear a helmet. And don’t forget to lock up your bike with a sturdy lock wherever you leave it.
If you’re home alone after school, check in with a parent or neighbor as soon as you walk in the door.
Let parents and friends know if you stay late after school. Get permission first if you want to play with a friend instead of going home.
If you see anyone doing something that makes you uneasy or you think isn’t right — a stranger hanging around the school playground, a bigger kid bullying younger children, vandalism or graffiti for example — tell your parents, a teacher, or another trusted adult. That helps McGruff Take A Bite Out Of Crime!

Bullies: A Serious Problem for Kids


Bullying behavior may seem rather insignificant compared to kids bringing guns to school and getting involved with drugs. Bullying is often dismissed as part of growing up. But it’s actually an early form of aggressive, violent behavior. Statistics show that one in four children who bully will have a criminal record before the age of 30.

Bullies often cause serious problems that schools, families, and neighbors ignore. Teasing at bus stops, taking another child’s lunch money insults and threats, kicking or shoving — it’s all fair game to a bully Fears and anxieties about bullies can cause some children to avoid school, carry a weapon for protection, or even commit more violent activity

A Word About the Victim

Although anyone can be the target of bullying behavior, the victim is often singled out because of his or her psychological traits more than his or her physical traits. A typical victim is likely to be shy, sensitive, and perhaps anxious or insecure. Some children are picked on for physical reasons such as being overweight or physically small, having a disability, or belonging to a different race or religious faith.

A Word About the Bully

Some bullies are outgoing, aggressive, active, and expressive. They get their way by brute force or openly harassing someone. This type of bully rejects rules and regulations and needs to rebel to achieve a feeling of superiority and security. Other bullies are more reserved and manipulative and may not want to be recognized as harassers or tormentors. They try to control by smooth-talking, saying the “right” thing at the “right” time, and lying. This type of bully gets his or her power discreetly through cunning, manipulation, and deception.

As different as these two types may seem, all bullies have some characteristics in common. They:

are concerned with their own pleasure
want power over others
are willing to use and abuse other people to get what they want
feel pain inside, perhaps because of their own shortcomings
find it difficult to see things from someone else’s perspective

What You Can Do

Listen to children. Encourage children to talk about school, social events, other kids in class, the walk or ride to and from school so you can identify any problems they may be having.
Take children’s complaints of bullying seriously. Probing a seemingly minor complaint may uncover more severe grievances. Children are often afraid or ashamed to tell anyone that they have been bullied, so listen to their complaints.
Watch for symptoms that children may be bullying victims, such as withdrawal, a drop in grades, torn clothes, or needing extra money or supplies.
Tell the school or organization immediately if you think that your children are being bullied. Alerted caregivers can carefully monitor your children’s actions and take steps to ensure your children’s safety.
Work with other parents to ensure that the children in your neighborhood are supervised closely on their way to and from school.
Don’t bully your children yourself, physically or verbally. Use nonphysical, consistently enforced discipline measures as opposed to ridiculing, yelling at, or ignoring your children when they misbehave.
Help children learn the social skills they need to make friends. A confident, resourceful child who has friends is less likely to be bullied or to bully others.
Praise children’s kindness toward others. Let children know that kindness is valued.
Teach children ways to resolve arguments without violent words or actions. Teach children self-protection skills — how to walk confidently, stay alert to what’s going on around them, and to stand up for themselves verbally.
Provide opportunities for children to talk about bullying, perhaps when watching TV together, reading aloud, playing a game, or going to the park or a movie.
Recognize that bullies may be acting out feelings of insecurity, anger, or loneliness. If your child is a bully, help get to the root of the problem. Seek out specific strategies you can use at home from a teacher, school counselor, or child psychologist.

Stopping School Violence


The mix has become appallingly predictable: volcanic anger, no skills to vent the anger or ease the pain, no trusted adult to turn to, and accessibility of firearms. Result: dead and wounded students, faculty, and staff at schools in all parts of our nation. We can all help prevent these tragedies in three ways: violence prevention (not reaction) programs in every community; young people taught by all of us how to manage anger and handle conflicts peaceably; and guns kept out of the hands of unsupervised kids and treated as hazardous consumer products.
But the relatively small number of school-site homicides is only the tip of an iceberg that could cost our children their futures and our communities their civic health. Violence in our schools — whether it involves threats, fistfights, knives, or firearms — is unwarranted and intolerable. Children deserve a safe setting to learn in. Teachers and staff deserve a safe place to work in. Communities deserve safe schools that educate kids and help keep neighborhoods safer.

For some schools, violence may be a minor issue; for others, it may be a daily presence. Though the most extreme forms of violence are rare, the threat of all kinds of violence can keep students away from school, prevent them from going to after-school events, and leave them in fear every day.

To make our schools safer, everyone can and must pitch in — teachers, parents, students, policy makers, law enforcement officers, business managers, faith leaders, civic leaders, youth workers, and other concerned community residents. Each of us can do something to help solve the problem. And it’s a problem we all must solve.

What can you do to stop school violence? This page links to six starter lists of ideas. Some require only individual action; some require concerted effort. Some address immediate issues like kids bringing weapons to school; others address the problems that cause violence. Consider these lists a launching pad. There’s lots more that can be done. We’ve listed resources that can provide even more ideas and help in carrying them out.

On your own, with a group, with your child, with a classroom full of children — whatever you do, there’s something here you can do. Anything you do will help.

Watch for Signs… Take Action

Know signs that kids are troubled and know how to get them help. Look for such signs as:

Lack of interest in school
Absence of age-appropriate anger control skills
Seeing self as always the victim
Persistent disregard for or refusal to follow rules
Cruelty to pets or other animals
Artwork or writing that is bleak or violent or that depicts isolation or anger
Talking constantly about weapons or violence
Obsessions with things like violent games and TV shows
Depression or mood swings
Bringing a weapon (any weapon) to school
History of bullying
Misplaced or unwarranted jealousy
Involvement with or interest in gangs
Self-isolation from family and friends
Talking about bringing weapons to school
The more of these signs you see, the greater the chance that the child needs help. If it’s your child and he or she won’t discuss these signs with you, see if a relative, a teacher, a counselor, a religious leader, a coach, or another adult can break the ice.

Get help right away. Talk with a counselor, mental health clinic, family doctor, a psychologist, religious leader, the school’s dean of students, or the office of student assistance. The faster you find help, the more likely the problem can be resolved.

Not your child? Recognizing these signs in any child should set off alarm bells for any community member. If you know a child well enough to notice these changes, constructively express concern to the parent(s), who may already be taking action and would welcome your support. If parents appear disinterested, speak to the child’s teacher or counselor.


Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
230 North 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215-567-0394 (fax)

Bureau of Justice Assistance Clearinghouse
PO Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000

Boys & Girls Clubs of America
1230 West Peachtree Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
404-815-5789 (fax)

Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence
Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado
Campus Box 442, Building #10
Boulder, CO 80309-0442
303-443-3297 (fax)

Educational Resources Information Clearinghouse
National Library of Education
U.S. Department of Education
600 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 2002-0498

Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse
PO Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000

National Association of Police Athletic Leagues
618 North US Highway 1, Suite 201
North Palm Beach, FL 33408
561-863-6120 (fax)

National Center for Conflict Resolution Education
Illinois Institute for Dispute Resolution
110 West Main Street
Urbana, IL 61801
217-384-8280 (fax)

National Clearinghouse on Alcohol and Drug Information
PO Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20852

National Crime Prevention Council
1700 K Street, NW, Second Floor
Washington, DC 20006-3817
202-296-1356 (fax) or

National Injury Control and Prevention Center
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
404-639-1623 (fax)

National Institute for Dispute Resolution
1726 M Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 10036
202-466-4769 (fax)

National PTA
330 North Wabash Avenue, Suite 2100
Chicago, IL 60611

National School Safety Center
4165 Thousand Oaks Blvd, Ste 290
Westlake Village, CA 91362
805-373-9277 (fax)

National Youth Gang Information Center
Institute for Intergovernmental Research
PO Box 12729
Tallahassee, FL 33217
850-386-5356 (fax)

Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
U.S. Department of Education
Portals Building, 600 Independence Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20202-6123
202-260-7767 (fax)

Street Law, Inc.
918 16th Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20006-2902
202-293-0089 (fax)

Teens, Crime, and the Community
1700 K Street, NW, Second Floor
Washington, DC 20006-3817
202-466-6272, x152 or 161
202-296-1356 (fax)

Youth Crime Watch of America
9300 South Dadeland Blvd, Ste 100
Miami, FL 33156
305-670-3805 (fax)

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services

This list highlights just a few of the more recent documents that offer ideas about programs and strategies that can help reduce or prevent violence in schools, as well as information on the problem. They in turn offer referrals to still more sources of information and ideas. Many of the organizations listed above will send free catalogs listing all their publications.

Arnette, June and Marjorie C. Walsleben. Combating Fear and Restoring Safety in Schools. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. April 1998. (NCJ 167888).
Drug Strategies, Inc. Safe Schools, Safe Students: A Guide to Violence Prevention Strategies. Washington, DC: Drug Strategies, Inc. 1998.
Heaviside, Sheila, Cassandra Rowand, Catrina Williams, and Elizabeth Farris. Violence and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-1997. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education. March 1998. (NCES 98-030).
Kenney, Dennis J. and T. Steuart Watson. Crime in the Schools: Reducing Fear and Disorder with Student Problem Solving. Washington, DC: Police Executive Research Forum. 1998.
Lockwood, Daniel. Violence Among Middle School and High School Students: Analysis and Implications for Prevention. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. 1997. (NCJ 166363)
U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice. Creating Safe and Drug-Free Schools: An Action Guide. Washington, DC. 1996. Electronically available through or, or by calling 800-624-0100.
Zimmer, Judy, Terrence W. Modglin, and Jean F. O’Neil. Teens, Crime, and the Community: Education and Action for Safer Schools and Communities, Third Edition. Cincinnati, OH: West Educational Publishing (a Thomson International company). 1998.

Drug Free School Zones


Drug-free zones around schools offer communities one way to give students a place where they can play and talk without being threatened by drug dealers and drug users.

Federal law and many state and local laws increase penalties for drug-related activities in drug-free school zones.

A Drug-Free School Zone Is More Than a Law and a Sign

It is a law and a community-wide commitment to reduce drug use among young people.

Federal law and many state and local laws increase penalties for drug-related activities in drug-free school zones.


1. Build a drug-free school zone coalition that includes representatives from law
enforcement, schools, parent groups, civic clubs, youth organizations, businesses, religious institutions, local government, drug treatment centers, other social service agencies, public housing authorities, and the courts.

2. Mobilize the community – talk to key people, build partnerships, assess the community’s drug problems

3. Create a shared vision of a safe and drug-free environment for children. Set goals and design strategies to meet them.

4. Establish the drug-free school zone by researching laws and establishing formal partnership agreements with school administrators, city officials, and law enforcement. Name a coordinator, measure and map the zone, post signs (check with law enforcement and city officials regarding wording and placement), and publicize the project. Kick off with special school assemblies, a parents’ organization meeting, a proclamation, and press conference.

5. Mobilize the community – talk to key people, build partnerships, assess the community’s drug problems.

6. Celebrate successes with award ceremonies, family events, posters, publicity, and T-shirts. Have young people plan and run a drug-free celebration.

Don’t stop at the school’s boundaries. Expand your drug-free zone efforts to any area besieged by problems associated with drug and alcohol abuse.

Drug-free zones around schools offer communities one way to give students a place where they can play and talk without being threatened by drug dealers and drug users.

For Information

The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI)



If crime has a strong grip on a neighborhood, it’s hard to take the first steps toward reclaiming your streets.

People are afraid that if they act, criminals will take revenge. You can counter this fear, and protect each other, by working closely with police and organizing group activities – there’s safety in numbers. You may want to meet outside the neighborhood at first.


Ask police for help in forming a citizen patrol that walks the neighborhood, intimidating drug dealers by writing down license plate numbers and descriptions of suspected dealers. Videotape or photograph illegal activities. Pass information on to law enforcement. Wear a “uniform” – a brightly colored cap or special T-shirt.
Use a bullhorn or loudspeaker to broadcast “Drug dealers on the block. Police are being notified.
Demonstrate against landlords who rent property to drug dealers.
Make public your dissatisfaction with businesses, including restaurants and bars, that ignore drug dealing. Do the same to stores that sell drug paraphernalia – such as marijuana pipes or rolling papers.
Organize neighborhood clean-up campaigns to sweep litter and drug paraphernalia off the streets, clean off or paint over graffiti, plant flowers and trees, and repair broken equipment in playgrounds.
Make young people part of your neighborhood improvement team. Find other creative, constructive activities for youth, especially teens.
Put up large, colorful banners or signs that warn drug dealers that residents are watching for crime and reporting it to the police.
March or organize a vigil to demonstrate and community’s will to drive out drug dealers and other criminals.
Make sure the newspapers and television cover this good news – show the word that neighbors and police care and are taking action!

Use good judgement when faced with problems of illegal drug use or sales or other criminal activity in your neighborhood. Think about how you can report a drug problem without subjecting yourself to retaliation. It’s important to report, but it’s equally important to report safely.

How To Start A School Crime Watch


Are you tired of graffiti on your school’s walls? Have some students started bringing weapons to school? Is fighting on school property giving you the blues? Are there days when you are afraid to go to school? Maybe your school is fine and you want to prevent crime before it becomes a problem? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions or your school is struggling with other crime problems, then a school crime watch might be an answer.

Based on the Neighborhood Watch concept, a school crime watch encourages students to watch out and help out each other to make the entire school a safer and more enjoyable place. It’s a student-led effort that helps youth take a share of responsibility for their school community. Students learn how to keep themselves from becoming victims of crime and how to report suspicious activities. In some cases there’s an organized patrol that helps ensure the school’s public areas are watched appropriately. The attractiveness of a school crime watch program is that a school of any size, in any type of community — rural, suburban, inner-city — can adopt its principles at minimum cost!

Need some help getting started? contact YCWA (, a national group that has helped thousands of kids start watches in their schools Starting a School Crime Watch .

A group of dedicated teens willing to work together to bring the entire student body into a crime watch way of life can start a school crime watch program by:

researching what crime problems — vandalism, assault, theft — are most common at the school and what prevention strategies could prove effective;
working with the school authorities including the principal and the person in charge of security to get their support for the program;
establishing an advisory board made up of students and adults;
talking to your local crime prevention officer about starting the program, and setting up a central group of individuals in charge of the crime watch — sometimes called the core group (This group must be made up of students from all kinds of groups, so that no group will feel excluded.);
deciding how you will launch the program. An exciting way to kickoff the program is through an all-school assembly or rally. This will help build support and generate interest; advertising your first school crime watch meeting through fliers, posters, morning public address announcements, even email;
holding your first meeting to discuss the make up of the crime watch, the issues that need to be addressed, and the need for a school patrol. If you choose to have a school patrol your committee will need to identify sites to monitor;
telling the adult community that your school is starting a school crime watch;
planning your calendar of crime watch events.

What is a Student Patrol?

One powerful component of a school crime watch can be a student patrol. This moves the program from an information and teaching mode into action. Patrol activities include monitoring the halls and parking lots between classes and during lunch. This action can reduce the number of crime-related incidents in the patrolled areas.

Communicating Is Key to Success

Communication is critical to a school crime watch program. Students report crime because it is a serious issue — not to get someone they don’t like into trouble. Not reporting can place a student in a threatening situation. It is a school crime watch’s responsibility to keep all reports confidential. If students start finding out about who reported on whom, people won’t continue to participate in the program. Students reporting must know that they will be anonymous.

How to plan stuff Helping Out Builds Momentum for the Program

A school crime watch goes beyond just watching out for its fellow classmates. Activities such as drug- and alcohol-free parties, date rape/rape awareness days, newspaper columns in the school or local paper, and crime and drug abuse prevention tips announced on the P.A. system are ways to build interest in your program. Longer term projects that promote student well-being include conflict resolution projects, cross-age teaching and mentoring, vandalism prevention, even bus safety.

Do school crime watch programs work?

Yes! Crime dropped 45 percent at one high school in Florida within a year of initiating a school crime watch! Active school crime watch programs in schools across the country have been able to reduce violence, guns, drug use, and many of the other things that come with crime. The schools with active watches are happier, safer places.

For help building a school crime watch, see Youth Crime Watch of America, or call 305-670-2409.

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