Literacy PK-3

Systems Change

Factor Connections

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Safety is being and feeling physically and psychologically secure at home, at school, and within our neighborhood and larger community. Students who feel safe are better able to focus on learning and therefore learn to read more quickly. Students who feel less safe tend to miss school and participate less often in class activities, missing out on learning opportunities.

Main Ideas

There are four key types of safety that affect a student's learning:


Even under teacher supervision, bullying, primarily verbal aggression and exclusion behaviors, is common in classrooms. Bullying is unfortunately also common in the broader community outside of school. Students who are bullied in person or online experience higher rates of depression and anxiety and have lower levels of academic achievement. Perpetrators of bullying also experience higher levels of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Home Safety

Safety at home is critical to students' development because students who live in unsafe homes can suffer from chronic stress. Students can feel unsafe at home for many reasons, such as:

  • They frequently witness violence;
  • They are victims of abuse;
  • Their parents or caregivers suffer from severe mental illness; or
  • Their parents or caregivers struggle with substance abuse.

The traumatic effects of living in an unsafe home can in turn make it difficult for students to reach their full potential at school.

Neighborhood Safety

Students who live in safe neighborhoods have better academic outcomes, including learning to read, than students who witness violence in their communities. Exposure to violence and crime in the community is linked to many negative outcomes because students who live in unsafe neighborhoods experience chronic stress that has implications for their mental health, an aspect of Emotion.

School Safety

The reduction of bullying and school violence are two main goals of school Safety. Because of the many repercussions of bullying, all states have implemented legislation to combat bullying in school and cyberbullying that moves into the school space.

The prevalence of school shootings in recent years is also an important concern. Students who survive these traumatic events are at risk for experiencing serious psychological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Yet, despite the increase in the number of victims of school shootings, overall crime rates in U.S. schools have declined in recent years due to increased security measures. More research on the impact of school security measures, such as active shooter drills, is however critical across different age groups. Early findings for older students suggest that, while active shooter drills enhance student preparedness, they also bring more attention to the threat from potential shooters, which can increase anxiety.

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