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.