Working to Keep Schools and Communities Safe

Working to Keep Schools and Communities Safe

"This job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation."

— President Barack Obama, December 16, 2012

When schools are the centers of their communities, students, parents, and entire neighborhoods benefit. Ensuring that schools are sanctuaries for teaching and learning—and free of crime and violence—is a priority for President Obama, the administration, and the entire nation

The need

Violence and trauma in schools and communities can affect students' overall health and well-being as well as their educational outcomes.

Far too many students experience or are exposed to violence, and schools and communities often struggle to respond and provide appropriate and sustainable resources and supports.

According to a 2012 report from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 74 percent of public schools recorded one or more violent incidents of crime in the 2009-2010 academic year, and 23 percent of schools reported bullying among students on a daily or weekly basis. While trends have shown a steady overall decrease in crime and violence in schools over recent years, the current level of crime and violence in our schools is unacceptable. The challenges that schools face in developing and maintaining safe, positive climates for learning are complex, but schools must remain safe havens in communities for students and their families.

Youth and Violence: Youths are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than other age groups; 49% of those aged 18-24 are victims of violent crime.

The goal

All children should grow up free from fear and violence. Fortunately, most of America's children do. But there are far too many schools and neighborhoods where fear and violence are part of a child's daily life. This is unacceptable, and the President's school safety-related proposals reflect a national goal of ensuring that all children live in safe neighborhoods and attend nurturing schools that provide them with the services and supports that they need to thrive.

The plan

The President has proposed a comprehensive plan, Now is the Time, to help protect schools and communities by reducing gun violence and providing resources to schools.

The plan aims to help prepare schools for emergencies, create positive school climates, improve mental health services, and prevent violence as well as provide supports to students who are exposed to violence. Other activities include collecting data on indicators of school safety and providing guidance on school discipline policies.

The President's Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal

The 2015 budget request will continue the important initiatives included in Now is the Time, the President's common-sense plan to make our schools safer and protect our children from gun violence. Key proposals include:

  • School Climate Transformation Grants ($50 million): These grants will help schools train their teachers and staff to implement evidence-based behavioral intervention strategies that improve school climate and reduce bullying.
  • Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students State and Local Grants ($45 million): These grants will help states, districts, and schools to meet the specific needs of their communities by supporting programs that improve school climate and student's mental and physical health.
  • Project Prevent Grants ($25 million): These grants will enable school districts with high levels of violence to provide supports and services to address trauma or anxiety while promoting conflict resolution and other school-based strategies to prevent future violence.
  • Project SERV (School Emergency Response to Violence) ($5 million): These grants help restore the learning environment after a natural disaster or violent incident at or near a school, college, or university.

Partnerships

The U.S. Department of Education is continuing its work with the U.S. Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Homeland Security to help ensure that schools remain among the safest places in our communities and to provide students the supports they need to succeed.

For example, these agencies worked together to develop guidance on high-quality emergency operations plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education, which were released in June 2013. Additionally, in 2013, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius led a national conversation to increase understanding about mental health issues.

HHS also is leading a $55 million initiative called Project AWARE to reach 750,000 young people through programs that will identify mental illness early and refer young people to the treatment services that they need. And the U.S. Department of Justice is working with the Department of Education on the development of a $75 million Comprehensive School Safety program.

Additionally, in January 2014, in conjunction with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, the Department of Education released first-ever federal policy guidance aimed at addressing the problem of racial discriminatory discipline practices in elementary and secondary education. This policy guidance, in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter, aims to help schools and districts identify and remedy discriminatory discipline practices.

Learn more

  • Visit the White House website for additional details about the President's plan to protect children and communities by reducing gun violence, creating safe and positive conditions for learning, and developing and implementing comprehensive emergency management plans.
  • Visit here for the school discipline guidance package that the Department of Education, in collaboration with the Department of Justice, released to assist states, districts, and schools in developing practices and strategies to enhance school climate, and ensure those policies and practices comply with federal law.