Components of the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative

NIJ’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative consists of three broad components:

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 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.
The Initiative will use existing models, research and data to develop research designs and programs that address knowledge gaps as well as gaps in the various models communities currently use to ensure the safety of their schools and neighborhoods.

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.

Assess technology. NIJ will fund two comprehensive technology assessments: one focused on how technology is currently used in the United States and other countries to prevent and respond to school safety-related issues, the other focused on the future technology needs of the nation’s schools.

The assessments are expected to include but not be limited to:

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

Conduct investigator-initiated research. NIJ issued a competitive solicitation on Feb. 19, 2014, for researchers to test their best ideas about school safety. The proposed research should be broad, with study questions and methods that are completely open and unrestricted.

All hypotheses and methods are being considered. Proposals may include natural experiments, randomized controlled trials, demonstration field experiments, longitudinal studies, and secondary data analyses. This investigator-initiated solicitation will accept proposals that look broadly at the array of factors that contribute to school safety, including proposals to develop and test new technology to better ensure school safety. To be considered for funding, each research effort must contribute to the base of knowledge and provide evidence about school safety.

NIJ plans to make available approximately $15 million for multiple grants that directly address school safety issues. The solicitation has closed and NIJ expects to announce awards in October 2014.

Test the Effects of Interventions via Pilot Projects

The Initiative will fund schools to put interventions in place. It will also fund pilot projects to test and measure those interventions’ effectiveness. The pilot projects and their associated interventions will be limited to K-12 public and tribal schools. The interventions may address a wide range of issues related to school safety. The most common interventions will be related to mental health and wellness services, security and preparedness, and school climate and culture. In addition, schools and researchers will examine any unintended consequences that might result from school safety efforts, such as discriminatory treatment of students, excessive use of exclusionary discipline and contributions to a school-to-prison pipeline.

The pilots will involve school and researcher partnerships. Research partners will receive between a quarter and a third of the awarded funds. The rest will be available for the school to purchase what they need to implement the intervention being tested and evaluated.

NIJ plans to make approximately $47 million available for multiple large- and small-scale pilot projects. The solicitation has closed and NIJ expects to announce awards in October 2014.

Date Created: April 25, 2014