The report examines the internal and external conditions that matter for students’ and teachers’ feelings of safety. It shows how the external conditions around the school, and in students’ backgrounds and home communities, strongly define the level of safety in schools. It then examines the extent to which factors under the control of schools—their social and organizational structure, and particularly the relationships among adults and students—mediate those external influences.

This research report finds that students and teachers feel much safer in some Chicago Public Schools than others, and the best predictor of whether students and teachers feel safe is the quality of relationships inside the school building. The report also finds that schools serving students from high-crime, high-poverty areas tended to feel less safe; however, demographics were not deterministic of safety. In fact, disadvantaged schools with high-quality relationships actually felt safer than advantaged schools with low-quality relationships. 

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