School Safety & Security Learning Lab

Path to Safer Schools

Every step of the Path offers guidance towards making schools safer for good.

Thank You to our 2024 School Safety & Security Learning Lab Partners




Safer schools are










1. Start with a Safety Team.
Who owns safety in your school district?

A dedicated School Safety Director can provide clear ownership of your district's safety program.

If you do not have a dedicated, full-time School Safer Director, assign responsibility to an assistant Superintendent who can assemble a proper safety team, and oversee safety programs.

"Not only do I recommend having a school safety coordinator to operationalize a comprehensive approach to school safety, but in a district of 13,000 students it is absolutely imperative that this individual reports directly to me and that we have constant communication to maintain a multi-faceted approach."

Dr. Todd Bauer, Superintendent, North Penn School District

“As a dedicated school safety professional, I have a background in all aspects of safety including planning, training, emergency response, and communications experience to identify, prevent, and manage any level of safety issue.”

Jason Stoddard, Director of Safety and Security, Charles County Public Schools

2. Assess your vulnerabilities.
What safety gaps exist at your schools?

Identify gaps and vulnerabilities in your safety infrastructure so you know what to prioritize.

Any upgrade to security infrastructure begins with a vulnerability and strengths assessment by an experienced security professional. This helps identify gaps in physical security, policy, procedures, plus emergency operations, and preparedness.

60% of grants fail to get funded because they did not include a vulnerability assessment.

3. Fund your safety program.
How can new funding sources create safer schools?

Many federal and state funding sources are available to help schools improve safety, and security well into the future.

Once an Assessment is completed, a grant manager can assist in applying for grants to fill the vulnerabilities identified in the Assessment.

Did you know that over $1B in federal school safety funding went unused in 2022?

“We learned that there are several grants and resources available to school districts such as STOP School Violence Grants that can help put ideas into practice to enhance safety measures.”

Dr. Shahe Bagdasarian, Superintendent, Oak Lawn Community School District

“As we know the superintendents at many of the schools that are high risk, they're wearing three or four hats – they don't have time or the resources to fill out these grants. These grants are intimidating.”

Matthew McConaughey, Actor, Founder, Greenlights Grant Initiative

4. Prevent harm.
Do students feel comfortable sharing concerns?

Prevent harm by creating a positive school culture and climate while building strong positive relationships between staff and the student body.

Most acts of violence can be prevented by identifying at-risk behaviors and intervening to address the concerns. And providing a mechanism for students to report their concerns anytime, on any device to the proper authorities.

Did you know that 2/3 of active shooters told someone before they acted?


5. Be prepared.
Does everyone know what to do in an emergency?

A well-trained staff and student body are key to sustainable safety efforts.

Prepare policies and know how to act with confidence in any situation. Have a concise and operational EMR (Emergency Response Plan), conduct training and drills, and collaborate with first responders.

“Don’t let “What if” become “What now.”

Chris Grollnek, Active Shooter Prevention Project

“When the time to perform has come, the time to prepare has passed.”

Brandon Rhone, School Safety Director, North Penn School District


6. Respond to threats with confidence.
How can you limit the scope of harm?

Having proactive threat detection is a key element to physical security.

When prevention fails, it’s critical to identify a threat as early as possible, and using security technology can accelerate the process. Once a threat is detected, automating emergency response mitigates the scope of harm. An automated response requires technology that works with one another so doors can be locked, notifications sent, and communications begin.

“In times of crisis, time is the enemy. School security technology that works seamlessly with first responders in seconds can help mitigate or prevent the next tragedy.”

Bruce Canal, School Safety Director, Orange County Public Schools (Ret)

"An effective response to a crisis takes intentional leadership - your mindset matters!"

Dr. Steve Webb, Superintendent/SRO, Goreville, C.U.S.D. #1


7. Recovery, reunify, resolve.
How do you manage the situations after an incident?

Find a safe location.

In the event of an emergency, schools need to evacuate students to a safe and strategic location to safely reunify them with parents or guardians.

Stay connected to be reconnected.

Once it’s safe for students to return to school, the reunification process begins. Schools should have accurate and up-to-date contact information for all students and their families, and clear procedures in place for communicating with parents and guardians during the reunification process.

What happens next isn’t the same for everyone.

It’s also important to connect families with trauma support services for the short and long-term care of those affected.

“It is essential to comprehend that the path to recovery begins as soon as the crisis does, and the initial step is reunification.”

Chief Rick Francis, Department of School Safety, Seminole County Sheriff's Office


Thank you for exploring the Path to Safer Schools. 

Content and design were created in partnership with AASA and ZeroNow.

ZeroNow is a think-tank making schools safer for good.

Our members, experts, and stakeholders are School Safety Directors, School Administrators, former law enforcement, support resources, technology pioneers, designers, and advocates for safer schools.

We invite school administrators to explore the Path to Safer Schools further with guidance from our Community.

Together, we will make schools safer for good.

Thank You to Our 2024 School Safety & Security Learning Lab Partners