For School Personnel: General Introduction to School Safety and Trauma in Schools


A fundamental goal of a school community is to help students learn and thrive to the best of their abilities. Safety and a sense of security are necessary components of good learning environments.
Sometimes serious danger threatens a school, whether it is man-made, such as a school shooting or gang violence, or a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or flood. When a danger is life-threatening or poses a threat of serious injury, it becomes a potentially traumatic event for students and staff.

Unfortunately, dangerous incidents at or around schools occur at an alarming rate.
The U.S. Department of Justice has reported that 1 percent of students ranging in age from 12 to 18 years, or 225,000 children, have been victims of serious violent crimes either at school or as they traveled to and from it.
The National School Safety Center (NSSC) has reported that about 75 percent of school-associated deaths over the past decade involved the use of firearms, and that there were as many as 12 bully-related and 16 hate-crime deaths. 
Harmful and potentially dangerous incidents involving students range from name calling, other verbal intimidation, threats of violence, and fist fights to life-threatening behaviors. In several highly publicized school shootings, these behaviors were noted prior to the violent death of students and staff.

The Range of Traumatic Events that Impact Schools and Students

School personnel should be aware of a wide range of events and experiences that can place children at risk for psychological trauma.

Traumatic events that can occur at school may include:

  • Community violence that occurs on or adjacent to campus
  • Violent behavior
  • School shootings
  • Serious threats (for example, bomb threats or life threats against students or teachers)
  • Accidents (for example, car accidents, sports-related, or other accidents that occur on or adjacent to campus)
  • Deaths
  • Suicides

Traumatic Events that may affect students in their communities or regions may include:

  • Terrorism and large-scale violent events (for example, gang armed conflict, war, and terrorist attacks)
  • Natural disasters (for example, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes)

Go to the Effects of Trauma on Students