Skip Navigation

Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning


- OR -


- OR -


- OR -

FY Awards

- OR -

More Than Just Safety: School Security Measures and Academic, Behavioral, and Social Outcomes

Year: 2022
Name of Institution:
Florida State University
Goal: Exploration
Principal Investigator:
Fisher, Benjamin
Award Amount: $1,698,525
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2022 – 06/30/2025)
Award Number: R305A220359


Co-Principal Investigators: Mowen, Thomas; Viano, Samantha; Brown, Aishia

Purpose: In this study, researchers will examine schools' use of security measures and their association with a variety of academic, behavioral, and social outcomes. A major priority for schools is to keep students and school personnel safe, and a variety of security measures are used to maintain safety. However, little research has examined the outcomes associated with these common practices. Many critics are concerned about issues of equity, suggesting that school security measures have particularly negative effects on students of color and low-income students because of the heightened surveillance of already marginalized students.

Project Activities: To address these issues, the research team will take three approaches. First, the team will analyze data from four nationally representative datasets collected by the National Center for Education Statistics. These surveys represent the perspectives of students, teachers, and principals, and address a variety of academic (e.g., grades), behavioral (e.g., crime rates), and social (e.g., student-teacher relationships) outcomes. It will focus on issues of equity, examining differences by (a) race and income at the individual level, and (b) racial and socioeconomic composition at the school level. Second, the team will replicate these analyses using data from a partner school district. Third, they will conduct case studies that examine how school security measures are used in practice. In partnership with two school districts, researchers will study which security measures are used, how various stakeholders perceive those security measures, and how they understand the academic, behavioral, and social aspects of their schools.

Products: Products are geared towards practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. The research team will create a set of research briefs for practitioners and policy briefs for policymakers to explain the study's findings in plain language along with practical guidance about which security measures promote the most positive and negative outcomes. The research team will also present findings at respective conferences and publish in peer reviewed publications. In addition, the research team will create a website to disseminate the study's findings.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This mixed methods study has three major components that define its setting. First, in a secondary data analysis, researchers will use multiple data sources from the National Center for Education Statistics to study K–12 schools nationwide. These data sources include multiple waves of the following four surveys: the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), the Educational Longitudinal Survey of 2002 (ELS), and the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (SCS). Second, researchers will replicate these analyses using student-level data from a partner school district in Tennessee. Third, they will use mixed method case studies that will be set in 10 high schools in each of two diverse school districts: one in Tennessee and another in Virginia.

Sample: The secondary data analysis includes thousands of respondents that constitute nationally representative samples of different populations: the SSOCS sampled school administrators; the SASS sampled school administrators and teachers; the ELS sampled 10th grade students; and the SCS sampled households, including data from 12–18 year old students. The replication and two case studies will include data from a diverse set of students and school personnel from high schools in each of the two partner districts.

Factors: In the secondary data analyses, the main factor that researchers will examine in relation to academic, behavioral, and social outcomes is schools' tendency toward security. In each of the four secondary datasets we will use indicators of the presence of a variety of school security measures (for example, security cameras, ID badges) to generate scores representing schools' underlying tendency toward security. This will also be the focus of the replication analysis. In the case studies, we will assess schools' use of security measures through observations, interviews, and focus groups.

Research Design and Methods: The four secondary datasets will be used differently due to their respective study designs and sampling strategies. The restricted-use versions of the SSOCS and SASS will be used to identify schools sampled at more than one wave, allowing the creation of two-wave panel data. The ELS will be used to examine trajectories and longitudinal outcomes associated with attending a school with a given level of security in 10th grade. The SCS will be used as pooled cross-sectional data with the survey wave as the moderator to examine whether the association between school security and student outcomes has changed over time. Additionally, these analyses will examine differences by race/ethnicity and SES at either the individual level or as measures of composition at the school level. The replication analysis will link student-level outcomes to schools' use of security measures using district administrative data. The case studies will rely on interviews with school administrators, focus groups with students and staff, researcher observations, and administrative data. The interviews and focus groups will focus on participants' perceptions of the outcomes that will be examined through the secondary data analyses and perceptions of school security measures. The observations will focus on the presence and qualitative use of school security measures. The administrative data will focus on academic, behavioral, and social outcomes that align with those used in the secondary data analysis and issues of equity by race/ethnicity and SES.

Control Condition: Schools with varying levels of security will be compared across a wide range of academic, behavioral, and social outcomes.

Key Measures: In the secondary data analysis, the outcomes vary across surveys, but include academic (e.g., graduation, grade point average), behavioral (e.g., school crime rate; drug availability) and social (e.g., student-teacher relationships, volunteering) outcomes. The key moderators (i.e., socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity) will be measured at either the student or school level depending on the design of each survey. The research team will assess parallel measures as part of the replication analysis and case studies using interviews, focus groups, observations, and administrative records.

Data Analytic Strategy: In the secondary data analysis and replication, the research team will apply Item Response Theory (IRT) to the indicators of school security to measure schools' underlying tendency toward security. The outcomes of interest in each survey will then be regressed on the IRT scores and a set of covariates using regression models appropriate to the level of measurement of the outcomes. The team will use multiplicative interaction terms to assess whether the relationship between schools' tendency toward security depends on SES, race, and ethnicity. The case studies will link qualitative data from interviews and focus groups with data on schools' use of security measures. The research team will use a matrix analysis to understand each school's approach to security and outcomes of interest. By comparing schools on these dimensions—and integrating considerations for differences by race/ethnicity and SES—these case studies will provide qualitative insight and additional context to the secondary data analysis.