School Security Center
School Security Center K-12 school communities face an evolving and unique set of threats, hazards, and security challenges ranging from targeted violence to bombing threats to cyberattacks. School violence remains a persistent problem across the United States, with tragedies spanning decades, states, and communities and impacting the health and well-being of our nation’s youth. The Department of Homeland Security along with many others from across government, law enforcement and communities nationwide has redoubled its efforts and is poised to continue enhancing school safety and security. This page offers a starting place for DHS documents, resources, and tools related to school safety and security.
K-12 School Security Guide and Companion Products
K-12 School Security Guide (3rd ed., 2022) provides a comprehensive doctrine and systems-based School Security Center methodology to support schools in conducting vulnerability assessments and planning to implement layered physical security elements across K–12 districts and campuses. The primary focus will be on protection and mitigation measures and strategies schools should consider in their broader school safety enterprise. The guide is designed and organized for local education agencies to employ in conjunction with the K-12 School Security Assessment Tool (SSAT), a web-based tool that provides further guidance on school physical security planning and implementation. Together, this guide and the companion tool outline action-oriented security practices and options for consideration across the K-12 school community.
SchoolSafety.gov provides a one-stop-shop for federal school safety resources, programs, and actionable recommendations for creating a safe environment where students can thrive. It aims to share best practices and strategies to help K-12 school safety community members safeguard schools.
National School Safety Summit
The CISA-hosted National Summit on K-12 School Safety and Security convenes school safety experts, practitioners, and leaders from across the country to discuss current threats in school safety and explore research;informed strategies for addressing security challenges and risks in K-12 schools. The two-day virtual event is designed for all members of the K-12 school safety community, including federal, state, and local school leaders, to learn about and share actionable recommendations for creating and sustaining safe and secure learning environments.
Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model
As part of the Department’s efforts, the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC); created an operational guide that provides actionable steps that schools can take to develop comprehensive targeted violence prevention plans for conducting threat assessments in schools.
Active Shooter Preparedness: School Security and Resilience
The Active Shooter Preparedness: School Security and Resilience video provides information geared towards educators, school resource officers, and school administrators who serve in important roles in safeguarding schools.
School Safety SIMEX After Action Report
As part of its mission to promote school safety and security across the nation; the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) sponsored the pilot School Security Simulation Experiment (SIMEX) in collaboration with MITRE (a non-for-profit research and development organization) and George Mason University (GMU). This two-week-long SIMEX focused on examining current security procedures and technologies with the goal of producing data-informed recommendations to improve both physical and operational security in K-12 schools—primarily against active assailants. Using virtual reality technology, this SIMEX specifically focused on evaluating three main variables and their effect on the outcome of an active shooter event: utilization of School Resource Officers (SRO), door locking policies, and staff capabilities for lockdown initiation. The key findings and takeaways from this SIMEX are detailed in an After-Action Report (AAR) and were developed based on quantitative and qualitative data analysis collected throughout the event. The goal of these findings is to provide data-informed conclusions and recommendations regarding physical and operational security in K-12 schools in the hopes of informing policy and operational decisions at the state, district, and school level.
- In conjunction with physical security and emergency management, a threat assessment process is an effective component to ensuring the safety and security of our nation’s schools.
- Threat assessment procedures recognize that students engage in a continuum of concerning behaviors, the vast majority of which will be non-threatening and non-violent, but may still require intervention.
- The threshold for intervention should be relatively low so that schools can identify students in distress before their behavior escalates to the level of eliciting concerns about safety.
- Everyone has a role to play in preventing school violence and creating safe school climates. Students should feel empowered to come forward without fear of reprisal. Faculty and staff should take all incoming reports seriously, and assess any information regarding concerning behavior or statements.
Creating a Targeted Violence Prevention Plan
The goal of a threat assessment is to identify students of concern, assess their risk for engaging in violence or other harmful activities, and identify intervention strategies to manage that risk. This process begins with establishing a comprehensive targeted violence prevention plan that requires schools to:
Step 1: Establish a Multidisciplinary Threat Assessment Team
Establish a multidisciplinary threat assessment team of school personnel including faculty, staff, administrators, coaches, and available school resource officers who will direct, manage, and document the threat assessment process.
Step 2: Define Behaviors
Define behaviors, including those that are prohibited and should trigger immediate intervention (e.g., threats, violent acts, and weapons on campus) and other concerning behaviors that require a threat assessment.
Step 3: Establish and Provide Training on a Central Reporting System
Establish and provide training on a central reporting system such as an online form on the school website, email address, phone number, smartphone application, or other mechanisms. Ensure that it provides anonymity to those reporting concerns and is monitored by personnel who will follow up on all reports.
Step 4: Determine the Threshold for Law Enforcement Intervention
Determine the threshold for law enforcement intervention, especially if there is a safety risk.
Step 5: Establish Threat Assessment Procedures
Establish threat assessment procedures that include practices for maintaining documentation, identifying sources of information, reviewing records, and conducting interviews. Procedures should include the following investigative themes to guide the assessment process:
- Motive: What motivated the student to engage in the behavior of concern? What is the student trying to solve?
- Communications: Have there been concerning, unusual, threatening, or violent communications? Are there communications about thoughts of suicide, hopelessness, or information relevant to the other investigative themes?
- Inappropriate Interests: Does the student have inappropriate interests in weapons, school attacks or attackers, mass attacks, other violence? Is there a fixation on an issue or a person?
- Weapons Access: Is there access to weapons? Is there evidence of manufactured explosives or incendiary devices?
- Stressors: Have there been any recent setbacks, losses, or challenges? How is the student coping with stressors?
- Emotional and Developmental Issues: Is the student dealing with mental health issues or developmental disabilities? Is the student’s behavior a product of those issues? What resources does the student need?
- Desperation or Despair: Has the student felt hopeless, desperate, or like they are out of options?
- Violence as an Option: Does the student think that violence is a way to solve a problem? Have they in the past?
- Concerned Others: Has the student’s behavior elicited concern? Was the concern related to safety?
- Capacity: Is the student organized enough to plan and execute an attack? Does the student have the resources?
- Planning: Has the student initiated an attack plan, researched tactics, selected targets, or practiced with a weapon?
- Consistency: Are the student’s statements consistent with his or her actions or what others observe? If not, why?
- Protective Factors: Are there positive and prosocial influences in the student’s life? Does the student have a positive and trusting relationship with an adult at school? Does the student feel emotionally connected to other students?
Step 6: Develop Risk Management Options
Develop risk management options to enact once an assessment is complete. Create individualized management plans to mitigate identified risks. Notify law enforcement immediately if the student is thinking about an attack, ensure the safety of potential targets, create a situation less prone to violence, redirect the student’s motive, and reduce the effect of stressors.