School Securitization and Its Alternatives: The Social, Political, and Contextual Drivers of School Safety Policy and Practice

Eric Madfis, Paul Hirschfield, Lynn A. Addington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A dramatic transformation of school safety practices in American public schools has occurred during the last four decades. Scholars have argued that exaggerated fears and moral panics over youth violence, changing perceptions and responses to various risks in schools and society, and broader neoliberal political agendas expanded the criminalization and securitization of schools. This article considers the utility of divergent explanations for school securitization and criminalization (and recent decriminalization and medicalization efforts), suggests potential opportunities for theoretical integration, and reviews research on the relationship between school context (such as crime rates, racial composition, population density, and resources) and school safety practices. Based on this analysis of the social, political, and contextual drivers of school safety and security, implications for future research, practice, and policy are discussed. Impact and Implications The sustained securitization of schools is an outgrowth of multiple social and political forces. By examining the onset as well as the ebbs and flows of these forces, this article reveals particular contexts and historical moments when (openings for) alternatives to securitization emerge or prevail. When fears and punitive sentiments are lessened and notions of risk are reconceptualized or redirected, school helping professionals may find new opportunities to expand school-based mental health and evidence-based violence prevention approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-205
Number of pages15
JournalSchool Psychology Review
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


  • Shane Jimerson
  • moral panic
  • neoliberalism
  • school criminalization
  • school safety
  • school security
  • school-to-prison pipeline
  • sociology of fear
  • sociology of risk


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