School Safety and You: Tools to Address Emerging Threats in the K-12 Community

Session notes from “School Safety and You,” by Kaitlin Seale, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Aimee Manjarres, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, School Safety Task Force.

What was the main message?

Schools can use tools to build capacity to address emerging threats to the K-12 community.

What was the speaker’s best quote?

A layered approach to school safety and security is most effective. If your community had differing ideas of what school security means, bring them into the conversation, and make sure all five elements of physical safety and security are working together.

What is one strategy schools can implement immediately?

Take the School Safety Readiness Assessment tool. It assists users in evaluating respective school safety posture across 10 foundational elements of school safety and generates a tailored action plan, which provides task prioritization, options for consideration, aligned resources, and more.

What is one idea that you want to learn more about?

The Protective Security Advisor Program has experts who—for free—plan, coordinate, and conduct security and resilience surveys and assessments for schools and serve as liaison with local authorities and the Department of Homeland Services during and after incidents, such as school shootings.

What are resources you will check out?

  1. The K-12 School Security Guide, to enhance understanding a systems-based approach to layered physical security, explains the various elements of a comprehensive school security system and describes common challenges schools face in planning or making improvements. The guide has an accompanying training suite with web-based user training and train-the-trainer toolkit.
  2. K-12 School Security Assessment Tool: Designed to be used in conjunction with the guide, this tool offers users a vulnerability analysis and provides recommendations for improving physical security based on provided specifications.
  3. has resources for bullying and cyberbullying, mental health, school climate, threat assessment, emergency planning, targeted violence and more.
  4. Grants Finder Tool: It’s a new tool that features federally available school safety-related grand opportunities, including a seven-question quiz that filters down on opportunities based on how you answer the questions.

What are some relevant or surprising stats you learned?

Seale and Manjarres noted key statistics on risk environment:

  • 91 percent have observable psychological, behavioral, or neurological symptoms.
  • 51 percent of school attackers had engaged in observable planning behaviors prior to the attack.
  • 80 percent of attackers were bullied by classmates. Some of the attackers actively sought help to address bullying but received an ineffective response or no response or all.
  • 94 percent of school attackers had experienced a risk factor within six months of their attack.

They also noted prevalent risk environment trends:

  • Cybersecurity: 1,331 publicly disclosed school cyber incidents affecting U.S. school districts since 2016
  • Targeted Violence: 76 percent of attackers acquired their firearm from the home of a parent or another close relative
  • Bombing: 2,566 bombing-related incidents at K-12 schools from 2017-2022
  • Mental Health: 30 percent of students reported feeling unhappy and depressed more than usual since the pandemic

Notes by Krysia Gabenski, digital communication associate at NAESP.