THE TWO NATIONAL teachers union and a leading gun safety group called on federal and state lawmakers to pass a variety of gun laws to prevent future school shootings as part of a school safety report released Monday.
The report, published by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, comes just days before Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, marks one year since a mass shooting in which a former student killed 17 children and adults.
“It’s been now almost a year since Parkland,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “I know students served as live witness to that tragedy, and their voices helped make 2018 the year of gun safety.
“There’s still a significant amount of work to be done,” he said. “It’s up to us to solve this problem.”
LEE COUNTY, A POOR, rural community tucked into the southwestern most part of Virginia, is suing the state in an effort to allow its school employees to carry guns to combat a potential future active shooter scenario.
“I was kind of afraid of this,” Lee County schools Superintendent Brian Austin says. “We were not intending to pick a battle in Richmond. We were just trying to do what we thought was best for Lee County.”
But pick a battle it did, filing a lawsuit earlier this month in Lee County Circuit Court challenging Virginia’s refusal to give a special designation to Austin that would allow him to participate in a program approved by the Lee County School Board to allow educators and other school personnel to carry firearms on school property.
WASHINGTON—After months of research, visiting successful programs around the nation, and receiving testimony from experts and concerned citizens, today the Federal Commission on School Safety (Commission) released a 177-page report detailing 93 best practices and policy recommendations for improving safety at schools across the country.
Utilizing the information gathered, the Commission report offers a holistic approach to improving school safety, ranging from supporting the social and emotional well-being of students to enhancing physical building security. Acknowledging there can be no one-size-fits-all solution to this complex problem, the final report serves as a resource guide for families, educators, law enforcement officers, health professionals, and elected leaders to use as they consider the best ways to prevent, mitigate, and recover from acts of violence in schools. The recommendations are based on efforts that are already working in states and local communities.
“Each of us has an important role to play in keeping our students safe while at school,” said Chair of the Federal Commission on School Safety and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “Through the Commission’s work, it has become even clearer there is no single policy that will make our schools safer. What will work for schools in Montana will be different than what will work for schools in Manhattan. With that in mind, this report provides a wide-ranging menu of best practices and resources that all state, community, and school leaders should consider while developing school safety plans and procedures that will work for their students and teachers.”
This question came up again and again Tuesday during an at-times heated hearing of the Senate’s education committee: Does the law allow schools to use federal money to arm teachers?
The federal money in question comes from Title IV of the big, k-12 federal education law known as The Every Student Succeeds Act. It’s a billion-dollar pot intended for what the law calls “student support and academic enrichment.”
“There’s a range of services that Title IV funds, from computer science programs, music, art, STEM, extended learning time,” said Shavar Jeffries, one of four witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing and head of Education Reform Now.
One in five school police officers say their school is not prepared to handle an active-shooter situation, according to a nationally representative survey of school resource officers conducted by the Education Week Research Center.
And some school police report they haven’t been adequately trained to work in schools. Some also say their schools don’t set limits on their role in student discipline, which civil rights groups say is necessary to protect the rights of students.
School law enforcement officials say some officers will never feel fully prepared for an event like a shooting because they are always looking for ways to improve. They also have to balance the need to be ready for unlikely worst-case scenarios with the everyday duties of the job that requires them, most essentially, to build trust with students.
Yesterday, myself and four other LGBTQ Activists from GLSEN had the honor of sitting down with US Secretary of Education, Dr. John King, in his second to last day in office. Amid a changing administration, the Secretary offered his words of advice, and listened to our experiences as LGBTQ students as well as our hopes for inclusivity in the future of education. I think all of us, both visitors from GLSEN and the staff at the Department of Education, can agree that we all walked away with valuable information, useful connections, and an even stronger motivation to fight for student’s rights in schools.
Much of our conversation with the Secretary consisted of talking about our experiences in schools and how the federal government can further support LGBTQ students. We discussed issues like discriminatory bathroom policies, discrimination and bullying in schools, LGBTQ inclusive curriculum, and mutual respect among teachers, administrators, and our peers. As students, we proposed new ideas to help make schools more inclusive: e.g. class rosters with student’s preferred names and pronouns, accessible gender neutral bathrooms, and school bullying policies that specifically mention LGBTQ identities. We also talked about various steps the Department of Education has taken in the last few years; how they have improved school climates, and ways that there’s still room for growth.