Yesterday, President Obama announced comprehensive proposals to reduce gun violence and keep schools safe. Based on recommendations from the National Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, the plan includes 23 specific measures to address gun violence.
Besides requiring background checks for gun sales and banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, the proposals also address school practices.
Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, NAESP has worked to provide lawmakers with research-based, nonpartisan recommendations on school safety. NAESP and NASSP submitted comments to the National Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and President Obama’s proposals reflect many of these recommendations. Several actions in the proposal were signed into executive order by President Obama; many will require Congress to authorize and fund in the next fiscal year appropriations process.
What does the President propose for schools?
First, President Obama recommended creating a program called Comprehensive School Safety. This initiative (which will be included in the President's Fiscal Year 2014 budget request), would allot $150 million to hire school resource officers (SROs), school psychologists, social workers, and/or counselors. It is not clear if these funds would be competitive or go to states or school districts but all of the hiring decisions would be local determinations, the administration noted. The administration’s goal is to place 1,000 new school personnel in schools. Funding for this program could also be used to purchase school safety equipment and update public safety plans.
What would school resource officers do?
The Department of Justice has been tasked with developing a model for using school resource officers, including best practices on age-appropriate methods for working with students.
How would new school personnel be trained?
The plan includes a proposal for $50 million to help 8,000 schools train school staff to implement evidence-based strategies to improve school climate and execute effective discipline policies.
What does the President recommend about emergency management planning?
President Obama called on Congress to appropriate $30 million for one-time grants to help school districts implement emergency management plans. Further, by May, 2013, best practices will be available to develop model school and community emergency management plans.
Are mental health services included in this plan?
Several recommendations address mental health. The President proposed initiatives to connect youth to mental health services, working with schools, mental health agencies, law enforcement, and other community services. An additional program is proposed to provide training for teachers and principals to help them respond to mental health needs in children, and how to encourage families to seek treatment.
Read the full Obama Plan on Gun Violence Prevention on the White House website.
As lawmakers take up these issues on Capitol Hill, NAESP will continue to engage in discussions to support nonpartisan policies consistent with the values of the majority of principals we represent. NAESP has commented on the President’s proposals, and will urge Congress to legislate and fund programs that supply programmatic support for schools and address mental health issues.
Gun and safety issues are very complex, but there is consensus among principals that the nation must find meaningful, systemic, research-based solutions. Based on this, NAESP believes principals should have additional training on emergency management, and that both bullying/harassment programs and mental health services be bolstered, so that principals can access the right services for troubled students.