Components of the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative

NIJ’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative consists of three broad components, each designed to identify best practices and produce evidence about what works:

Understand School Safety Issues, Existing Models and Data

The Initiative is taking stock of the considerable work that has already been done on school safety. NIJ’s federal partners are coordinating their extensive experience about issues relevant to schools and conducting the following activities:

  • Gathering data to inform the broad question of school safety and summarize existing knowledge about school safety models and the research underpinning those models.
  • Convening stakeholders and experts to help envision the way forward and translate scientific findings into practice and policy.
  • Enhancing data collection, which includes:
    • Conducting a new national survey of the activities of law enforcement in schools
    • Expanding the School Survey on Crime and Safety to include mental health
    • Enhancing data for the national School-Associated Violent Death database

Each piece of knowledge developed as part of this component will contribute to the creation of a comprehensive school safety model that can be tested empirically.

No single commonly accepted school safety model exists today, but experts agree on the primary elements that comprise school safety plans and programs. The most frequently cited models and frameworks confirm that interdisciplinary, collaborative, and cohesive approaches are most effective. All models also emphasize the need for plans and programs to be integrated into schoolwide, multi-tiered systems of support that emphasize developmentally appropriate interventions.

The Department of Justice is also committed to ensuring that school safety practices provide fair and beneficial services for youth that in no way contribute to a school-to-prison pipeline. Research that informs these topics is a major focus of the Initiative.

The Initiative will assess school safety technology and conduct investigator-initiated research using the best and brightest ideas related to school safety. NIJ intends to test the various strategies and components of comprehensive school safety models and provide science-based information the public can use to make well-informed decisions about the best strategies for their local communities. NIJ anticipates that the research will provide guidance about future directions for continued development and refinement of school safety efforts.

In 2014, NIJ awarded $18,249,540 in funds through nine awards for this part of the Initiative.

Assess Technology

NIJ is also providing $1,500,000 in funding for two comprehensive technology assessments.

Assessing How Technology Is Used Today to Prevent and Respond to School Violence
Johns Hopkins University (JHU) received a competitive award to conduct directed research, test and evaluation projects to inform NIJ's nonforensic Science and Technology Program. Among other activities, JHU will conduct a comprehensive assessment of how technology is currently used to prevent and respond to school violence.

The assessment will address questions such as the following:

  • What technologies are currently being used?
  • How are they used (e.g., purpose, policy and practice)?
  • What is known about the efficacy of those technologies?
  • What considerations — including legal and financial — affect the technologies' use?

Technologies likely to be considered in the assessment include the following:

  • Physical security technologies, such as access controls, locks, cameras and schoolwide communication and emergency notification systems
  • Information technologies that can, for example, facilitate the exchange of information among schools, law enforcement agencies and mental health providers to help identify students who may pose a threat to themselves or others
  • Software risk assessment and planning tools
  • Social media monitoring technologies

Discovering the Unique Technology Needs Associated With Preventing and Responding to School Violence
Rand received a competitive award to conduct research to help NIJ identify the technology needs of law enforcement, courts and corrections agencies. Among other activities, RAND will conduct a focus group to assess the unique technology needs associated with preventing and responding to such acts in K-12 schools. This focus group will engage the major stakeholders, including the following:

  • Law enforcement
  • Mental health professionals
  • Parents and students
  • Researchers
  • School administrators
  • Teachers

Comparing the needs identified by this focus group with the results of the assessment conducted by JHU will enable NIJ to identify what technology research and development is needed to improve school safety.

Test the Effects of Interventions via Pilot Projects

The Initiative is providing funding directly to local school districts and state education agencies to implement and evaluate school safety interventions in K-12 schools. These pilot projects will test and measure the effectiveness of various interventions. Each project involves a school district working closely with a research partner who will conduct comprehensive evaluations of their efforts.

In 2014, NIJ made 15 awards for a total of $45,036,399 in this part of the Initiative. Funding was awarded to a range of groups:

  • Two state education agencies and 13 local education agencies
  • Applicants from 13 states
  • A mix of urban, suburban, rural and statewide applicants

The interventions selected address a wide range of issues related to school safety, including the following:

  • Restorative justice
  • Exclusionary discipline
  • Social media early warning
  • Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports
  • Bullying prevention
  • School resource officer training and effectiveness
  • Mental health and trauma-informed response
  • Wraparound services/comprehensive approaches
  • Threat assessment
  • Routes to and from school

Learn more:

Date Created: September 29, 2014