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No Child Left Behind: A Desktop Reference
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Title IV--21st Century Schools
Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities (IV-A)


The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act supports programs to prevent violence in and around schools; prevent the illegal use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco by young people; and foster a safe and drug-free learning environment that supports academic achievement. Without a safe and orderly learning environment, teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn. Students and school personnel need a secure environment, free from the dangers and distractions of violence, drug use, and lack of discipline, in order to ensure that all children achieve to their full potential.

In 1999, students ages 12 through 18 were victims of about 2.5 million crimes at school, including about 186,000 serious violent crimes (including rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault). Student safety is of concern outside of school as well: In 1999, students were more than twice as likely to be victims of serious violent crime away from school as at school.

The crime rate at schools has declined over the last few years. Between 1995 and 1999, the percentage of students who reported being victims of crime at school decreased from 10 to 8 percent. However, the prevalence rates of some types of crimes at school have not changed. For example, between 1993 and 1999, the percentage of students in grades 9 through 12 who were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in the past 12 months remained constant, at about 7 to 8 percent.

As the rate of victimization in schools has declined or remained constant, students also seem to feel more secure than just a few years ago. The percentage of students ages 12 through 18 who reported avoiding one or more places at school for their own safety decreased between 1995 and 1999, from 9 to 5 percent. Furthermore, the percentage of students who reported that street gangs were present at their schools decreased from 1995 to 1999.

However, not all indicators have improved. For example, in 1999, about one-third of students in grades 9 through 12 reported that someone had offered, sold, or given them an illegal drug on school property, an increase from about one-quarter in 1993. Thus, the data on school crime and safety present a mixed picture. While overall school crime rates have declined, violence, gangs, and drugs are still present, indicating that more work needs to be done.

WHAT'S NEW--The No Child Left Behind Act

Focuses on What Works

  • Specifies principles of effectiveness. In order to ensure that the program supports high-quality, effective activities, the Principles of Effectiveness require that grantees conduct a needs assessment, use research-based activities, and establish performance measures.

Improves Information and Reporting

  • Establishes information and reporting systems. Each state is required to establish a uniform management and reporting system to collect information on school safety and drug use among young people. This information will be publicly reported so that citizens have the information they need to ensure that their local schools are free from violence and drug use, and, in cases where schools fall short, to encourage improvement and track progress over time.

How It Works

The Safe and Drug-Free Schools (SDFS) program has two main components, the state grant program and national programs. The state grant component is a formula grant program, with funding provided to the state education agency (SEA) (at least 80 percent) and the office of the governor (up to 20 percent). SEA funds flow to districts by formula, and districts may use this funding for a wide range of drug- and violence-prevention activities and strategies.Up to 5 percent of SEA funds may be used for state-level activities, including technical assistance and training, evaluation, and program improvement services for districts and community groups. Governors' funds are awarded through grants and contracts to districts and community groups for services to youths with special needs, such as dropouts and students who are suspended or expelled, homeless, pregnant or parenting.

The national programs component provides discretionary funding for demonstration projects, special initiatives, technical assistance to states and districts, evaluation, and other efforts to improve drug and violence prevention. The law establishes a number of initiatives under SDFS national programs with specific provisions about who may apply and how funds may be used.

Key Requirements

States must develop a coordinated, comprehensive plan for how the SEA and governor's office will use SDFS funds. They must conduct a needs assessment (including collecting data on the incidence and prevalence of youth drug use and violence and the prevalence of related risk and protective factors) and develop state performance measures for SDFS-funded prevention activities. States must also:

  • Ensure that governor's office activities will not duplicate SEA and district prevention efforts;
  • Cooperate with the U.S. Department of Education's SDFS evaluation and data collection activities;
  • Use program funds to supplement, not supplant, other prevention funding; and
  • Develop their plans for the use of program funds in consultation with appropriate state officials and representatives of parents, students, and community-based organizations and make them available for public review.

How It Achieves Quality

Principles of Effectiveness apply to state grant program activities, including formula grant programs in districts, activities supported by grants and contracts made by the governor's office, and state-level activities undertaken by the SEA. The Principles of Effectiveness require that grantees:

  • Base their programs on research-based prevention activities;
  • Select activities that respond to local needs-as determined by objective data;
  • Establish a set of performance measures for their programs aimed at ensuring a safe, orderly, and drug free learning environment;
  • Involve parents in their programs; and
  • Evaluate their programs.

How Performance Is Measured

States and districts are required to establish performance measures for their activities under the state grant program. State performance measures must:

  • Be focused on student behavior and attitudes;
  • Be derived from the needs assessment described in the state's application;
  • Be developed in consultation with state and local officials; and
  • Consist of performance indicators for drug- and violence-prevention programs and activities and levels of performance for each indicator.

In addition, each state is required to establish a uniform management and reporting system for collecting information on school safety and youth drug use. States are required to include incident reports by school officials and anonymous student and teacher surveys in the data they collect.

Under the state grant program, states must report to the U.S. Department of Education every two years on:

  • Implementation and outcomes of SDFS programs-including an assessment of effectiveness;
  • Progress toward attaining state performance measures for drug and violence prevention;
  • Efforts to include parents in drug- and violence-prevention activities; and
  • Data on the incidence and prevalence, age of onset, perception of health risk, and perception of social disapproval of illegal drug use and violence by youths in schools and communities.

The U.S. Department of Education is required to conduct an evaluation of the impact of SDFS-funded and other drug- and violence-prevention programs. This should focus on whether district and community programs comply with the Principles of Effectiveness. The report should ask whether or not the programs have appreciably reduced the level of youth illegal drug, alcohol, and tobacco use. Programs must also reduce school violence, and the illegal presence of weapons in schools. The evaluation should note if schools have conducted effective parent involvement and training programs. The National Center for Education Statistics is required to collect data on the incidence and prevalence of illegal drug use and violence in schools.

Key Activities For The State Education Agencies

State education agencies must:

  • Develop their application with the governor's office and parents and community members.
  • Conduct a needs assessment and establish and track progress on program performance measures.
  • Develop uniform management and reporting systems for information on school safety and youth drug use.
  • Conduct evaluations and collect information from districts and other grantees to provide information for reports.

National Programs Initiatives

A number of discretionary initiatives, many of which are new or revised, compose the national programs initiatives.

  • Hate Crime Prevention. This authorization is for grants to districts and community organizations to assist localities most directly affected by hate crimes in activities such as developing education and training programs to prevent hate-motivated crimes and conflicts and improve the conflict-resolution skills of students and school staff. Congress has not appropriated funds for this program.
  • National Coordinator Program. Grants are available to districts for hiring and training drug-prevention and school-safety coordinators in schools with significant drug and safety problems. This program was formerly restricted to middle schools but now has been expanded to include all elementary and secondary school levels.
  • Community Service Grant Program. Formula grants are available to states to carry out programs under which students expelled or suspended from school are required to perform community service.
  • School Security Technology and Resource Center. This authorization is for the departments of Education, Justice and Energy to establish a resource center to provide districts with technical assistance on school security, including security assessments and implementation of technology, and to conduct related research and data collection. Congress has not appropriated funds for this program.
  • National Center for School and Youth Safety. This authorization is for the departments of Education and Justice to establish a center to carry out activities related to school safety, including emergency response, an anonymous student hotline, consultation, and information and outreach. In disseminating materials on school safety, the center is to give special attention to providing outreach to rural and impoverished communities. Congress has not appropriated funds for this program.
  • Grants to Reduce Alcohol Abuse. Competitive grants are available to districts to develop and implement programs to reduce alcohol abuse in secondary schools.
  • Mentoring Programs. Grants are available to districts and community groups for mentoring programs for children who are at risk of educational failure, dropping out of school, or involvement in criminal or delinquent activities, or who lack strong positive role models. The programs must be designed to link these children-particularly those living in rural areas, high-crime areas, or troubled home environments or those experiencing educational failure-with trained mentors. Funds may be used for activities such as hiring and training coordinators, and recruiting, screening, and training mentors but may not be used to compensate mentors.

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Last Modified: 09/14/2007