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The Science of School Safety

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2022

This episode of “Justice Today,” the official podcast of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which provides information on “cutting-edge” research and practices that address public safety challenges of our time, is an interview with Mary Poulin Carlton, a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) social science analyst, who discusses pressing issues in school safety including gun violence, bullying, school climate, and mental health, all of which affect students across the country and which NIJ researches.



She first discusses the scope of NIJ’s involvement in school-safety research. She reports that in 2014, for example, NIJ issued about a hundred awards that addressed school safety issues, including bullying prevention programs; the causes and consequences of school violence; the roles of school resource officers and law enforcement at schools; threat assessments and tip lines; an examination of school climate; alternatives to traditional school discipline; an examination of student trauma and mental health issues that might be manifested in school; school security practices; and an examination of school climate in relation to school security. When asked about some of the findings from this research, she first notes the finding that there is no “one-size-fits-all” security solution for all schools because of school differences based on location, community characteristics, student body characteristics, and differences in financial and personnel resources. She advises that any approach should be comprehensive and include a framework that is adaptable to a school’s circumstances and needs. NIJ has helped in identifying the key elements of a comprehensive school security framework. The foundational elements of a comprehensive school security system are physical safety, school climate, and student behavior. These are interactive security features that influence one another.


Date Published: August 1, 2022