School Climate & Safety

Use of School Shooter Drills Has Increased Significantly Since Newtown Shootings

By Evie Blad — May 21, 2015 2 min read
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More schools reported training students for active shooter situations and using security cameras, electronic notification systems, and anonymous reporting tools in the 2013-14 school year than four years earlier, and the rate of violent incidents at schools fell during that time.

In 2013-14, 70 percent of schools surveyed by the U.S. Department of Education reported drilling students on a written plan for school shootings, according to federal data released today, the first update on many school safety factors since 27 people died in shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012. That’s compared to 51.9 percent of schools that reported having such shooter drills on a similar federal survey administered in the 2009-10 school year.

The new, nationally representative data reflects an increase in many school safety measures since the Newtown shooting, which drew attention from local, state, and federal lawmakers around the country because of the number and young age of many of its victims. Many states enacted mandates for more training, which may have contributed to the increase in shooter drills.

Many school districts also increased spending on school safety equipment. In 2013-14, 75 percent of schools reported having at least one security camera, compared to 61 percent in 2009-10, the data show. Use of electronic notification systems, used to alert parents in the case of a school emergency, increased from 63 percent in 2009-10 to 82 percent in 2013-14, and use of anonymous threat reporting systems, like tiplines, increased from 36 percent to 47 percent in that time period.

The new data also show some progress: 65 percent of schools reported violent incidents like fights, sexual assaults, and threats of violence in 2013-14, a decline from 74 percent in 2009-10. The number of violent incidents fell during that time, from 25 per 1,000 students to 16 per 1,000 students. The number of schools reporting violent incidents classified as “serious” fell from 16 percent in 2009-10 to 13 percent in 2013-14, and the number of schools reporting that bullying occurred on a weekly basis dropped from 23 percent to 16 percent during that time period.

The new data come from the National Center for Education Statistics’ report, “Public School Safety and Discipline: 2013-14.” The 2009-10 data are taken from NCES’ School Survey on Crime and Safety. While the two surveys used the same language for questions related to the data I’m reporting here, the newer survey had some additional questions, and it allowed for more internet responses, compared to largely paper-and-pencil responses on the 2009-10 survey.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.