School Climate & Safety What the Research Says

How School Security Changed Since the Pandemic, in 5 Charts

By Sarah D. Sparks — January 12, 2023 2 min read
A student covers his head and holds onto a table during a statewide earthquake drill, at Lowell Elementary School on Oct. 20, 2016, in Seattle. Schools, businesses, and community organizations conducted similar exercises across the state as part of the annual Great Washington ShakeOut earthquake and tsunami readiness program.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

After five years of natural and manmade upheavals, most school leaders now have a plan in place and feel prepared to cope with every emergency, from pandemic outbreaks to school shootings to suicide.

What’s more likely to keep them up at night is managing day-to-day disruptions and misbehavior as student trauma and mental health problems rise.

That’s according to federal data released this morning from the School Crime and Safety Survey. The National Center for Education Statistics asked a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 principals about their emergency, security, and discipline policies as part of the School Pulse Survey in November.

The Pulse survey found that 86 percent of schools had developed written plans to cope with pandemic disease outbreaks in 2022, nearly twice as many as in 2017-18, when 46 percent had such plans.

Nearly all schools reported training teachers in positive behavioral-intervention strategies, and more than 80 percent of schools had trained their teachers to recognize bullying and signs of self-harm or suicidal thoughts and to intervene in crises.

Still, a rising number of principals—60 percent—said insufficient teacher training in classroom management limits their ability to reduce student misbehavior.

Rising use of school security officers

Half of public schools reported using a school resource officer—a police officer stationed on campus—at least once a week, and another 12 percent of schools reported using a different kind of sworn law-enforcement officer. That’s an overall increase from 42 percent in 2017. More than 50 school districts canceled their contracts with local law enforcement in the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, but others schools ramped up their use of the officers following school shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and other places. NCES found about 3 percent of schools reported using multiple full-time SROs every week, and more than half of SROs and other security staff now wear body cameras.

The vast majority of school leaders who had resource officers said they strongly believe the law-enforcement officials have a positive impact on their schools. However, NCES found principals at schools that serve 75 percent or more students of color were 10 percentage points less likely to find their SROs beneficial on campus, compared with principals of schools whose populations included only a quarter students of color, 63 percent to 73 percent.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety What the Research Says Digital Distractions in Class Linked to Lower Academic Performance
The 2022 Program for International Student Assessment found that two-thirds of U.S. students get distracted by digital devices in class.
2 min read
Kids in middle school working on assignment together
E+ / Getty
School Climate & Safety Opinion Restorative Justice Is Not Just an Alternative to Discipline
But done correctly, the practice can create a culture of connection, belonging, mutual respect, safety, and trust.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
School Climate & Safety Gunlocks to Be Given Free to Tucson Unified Schools' Families Who Ask
Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo says students often come to school with unauthorized firearms because adults don't have gun locks.
Jessica Votipka, Arizona Daily Star
2 min read
Displayed is a Glock 17 pistol fitted a with a cable style gun lock in Philadelphia on May 10, 2023.
Displayed is a Glock 17 pistol fitted a with a cable style gun lock in Philadelphia on May 10, 2023.
Matt Rourke/AP
School Climate & Safety Opinion Should Classroom Discipline Be Based in ‘Restorative Justice’?
Discipline often divides conservatives and liberals. Is there room for common ground?
9 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty