School Safety & Climate
School psychologists are uniquely positioned to advocate for evidence-based initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels, which create safe and supportive learning environments that naturally prevent violence and ensure that students have access to the supports they need to be successful both inside and outside of the classroom.
NASP advocates for comprehensive school safety policies and practices that are driven by the following key ideas:
School safety strategies must balance physical and psychological safety measures. Our schools should not resemble fortresses. We cannot barricade against all possible harm and trying to do so is counterproductive to maintaining a healthy learning environment. Excessive building security (e.g., metal detectors, security cameras) does not promote a sense of safety or student well-being, nor does it provide a guarantee of protection against an armed intruder. Reasonable physical security such as locked doors, lighted hallways, and visitor check-in systems must be combined with efforts to promote a positive school climate and trust among staff, students, and families where students feel connected and part of a close-knit and caring community, and in which they feel empowered to report any safety concerns.
Effective school safety efforts require a comprehensive, whole-school approach. School safety is not achieved by purchasing a designated program or piece of equipment; rather, effective efforts integrate school climate, effective discipline, social-emotional learning, positive behavior, mental health, and academics through a multitiered system of supports (MTSS) and problem-solving model. An MTSS framework emphasizes wellness promotion, prevention, and early intervention and helps to minimize redundancies and gaps in services. Equally important, comprehensive school safety addresses the most common forms of harmful or violent behavior that undermine school safety, such as bullying, fighting, and self-harm.
School mental health services are essential to creating and sustaining safe schools. Increased access to mental health services and supports in schools is vital to improving the physical and psychological safety of our students and schools, as well as their academic performance and problem-solving skills. School mental health supports that encompass social-emotional learning, mental wellness, resilience, and positive connections between students and adults are essential to creating a school culture in which students feel safe and empowered to report safety concerns, which is proven to be among the most effective school safety strategies. Additionally, in the aftermath of a crisis, school psychologists can help provide supports that facilitate a return to normalcy, are sustainable, and can help to identify and work with students with more intense or ongoing needs.
Schools need school safety and crisis plans that are consistently reviewed and practiced. School safety and crisis response are not separate endeavors, but rather they exist on a continuum. Training, planning, and professional development should encompass ongoing prevention and early intervention efforts as well as response and recovery plans in the event the unpreventable occurs. This entails a multitiered approach, which includes universal mental health screenings and interventions as well as more intensive approaches for students deemed at risk for violence to themselves or others. School mental health professionals should be an integral part of developing and implementing these plans. In addition, we can provide training to other school staff on how to identify students who may be experiencing mental health difficulties. All plans and training should facilitate collaboration among school personnel, first responders, and community providers.
PREPaRE training is a proven school safety and crisis response model that utilizes existing staff resources, is sustainable, and supports learning as well as effective safety and crisis response.
Framework for Safe and Successful Schools
This joint statement outlines evidence-based policies and practices for improving school safety and increasing access to mental health supports for children and youth.
Framework for School-Wide Bullying Prevention and Safety
This document provides a guiding framework to local education agencies and school administrators for implementing effective, sustainable school-wide bullying prevention and safety efforts.
Navigating School Safety Law and Policy
An "Advocacy in Action" Communiqué article written by Kelly Vaillancourt and Eric Rossen.