Safe Schools Initiative Works

Evaluation Finds that Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative Significantly Improves Student Safety

On November 3, 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued the following press release:

Rockville, MD – In the wake of several recent highly-publicized stories about violence among school-aged children, a new report shows that school districts participating in the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative substantially improved the safety of their students. According to the report by SAMHSA, over a three-year period, school districts participating in the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant program reported fewer students involved in violent incidents, decreased levels of experienced and witnessed violence, and improvements in overall school safety and violence prevention.

“Every child deserves to learn in a safe and healthy environment, and now through the results of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative we know that we can take real steps to help them,” said SAMHSA Acting Administrator Eric Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H. “The positive impact for children, families and communities is unprecedented: lower rates of school violence, more mental health services for more children, better attendance, and improved academic performance.”

Key findings from the Safe Schools/Healthy Students National Evaluation include:

  • A 15 percent decrease in the number of students involved in violent incidents during the grant period (from 17, 800 in year 1 to 15,163 in year 3).
  • A 12 percent decrease in the number of students reporting that they had experienced or witnessed violence from year 1 of the grant period to year 3.
  • Most staff at grantee schools reported that the Initiative had made their schools safer. By year 3 of the grant, 84 percent said the Initiative had improved school safety, 77 percent said it had reduced violence on campus, and 75 percent said it had reduced violence in the community.

The Safe Schools/Healthy Students program supports the implementation and enhancement of integrated, comprehensive community-wide plans that create safe and drug-free schools and promote healthy childhood development. Under the initiative, school districts, in partnership with local public mental-health agencies, law-enforcement and juvenile justice entities, must implement a comprehensive, community-wide plan that focuses on the following elements:

  • Safe school environments and violence prevention activities
  • Alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention activities
  • Student behavioral, social and emotional supports
  • Mental health services
  • Early childhood social and emotional learning programs.

Since 1999, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Justice have implemented the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative, which has provided more than $2.1 billion to local educational, mental health, law enforcement and juvenile justice partnerships. For more information on the Safe Schools/Healthy Students visit


Read the press release on SAMHSA’s Web site at

Read a data brief that describes the evaluation’s findings at



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