School Safety and Mental Health Policy Recommendations

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, NAESP has worked to provide lawmakers with research-based, nonpartisan recommendations on school safety.

School 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 that is appropriate to their school context, and that both bullying and harassment prevention programs must be bolstered and coordinated with mental health services so that principals can help students access the services they need.

A National Call To Action: How principals can raise awareness of mental health issues in schools. Click here to learn about NAESP's partnership with the White House to help address critical issues related to student health and well-being.

As lawmakers take up issues related to school safety and children’s mental health, NAESP will continue to engage in discussions to support nonpartisan policies consistent with the values of the majority of principals we represent. NAESP will continue to urge Congress to legislate and fund programs that provides support for schools and addresses mental health issues.

Educators Call for Interdisciplinary, Multitiered Framework to Improve School Safety

NAESP, with The American School Counseling Association, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of School Resource Officers, National Association of Secondary School Principals, and School Social Work Association of America released "A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools," their joint recommendations for improved school safety and access to mental health services for students.

This interdisciplinary framework offers six policy recommendations and eight best practices for successful schools. From the framework:

"Efforts to improve school climate, safety, and learning are not separate endeavors. They must be designed, funded, and implemented as a comprehensive school-wide approach that facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration and builds on a multitiered system of supports. We caution against seemingly quick and potentially harmful solutions, such as arming school personnel, and urge policy leaders to support the following guidance to enact policies that will equip America’s schools to educate and safeguard our children over the long term."

Read the full framework here.

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Principals Oppose Arming School Officials

NAESP together with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) released a joint statement opposing measures allowing teachers and principals to carry firearms in schools. Research has shown that the presence of armed school personnel, increased numbers of school resource officers, as well as the purchase of other visible school security equipment will not necessarily deter the kind of violence that took place at Sandy Hook. The following is an excerpt of the joint statement:

“In the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we all feel a desperate need to honor the memories of the victims and take steps to prevent such horror from happening again. In that spirit, many well-meaning policymakers are proposing to allow teachers and principals to carry firearms in school. As the professional organization for our nation’s principals, we strongly oppose such policies.

A principal’s first responsibility is to foster a safe, orderly, warm, and inviting environment. To be effective, schools must be perceived as safe havens where students want to be. The presence of armed school officials on campus conveys the opposite message to students and to the local community. Is the school really safe, a parent might wonder, if the principal feels that he or she needs to carry a firearm? Any impression that obstructs a trusting relationship in school compromises school safety instead of enhancing it.”

Read the full statement here.

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Principals Join National Discussion on School Safety

Shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting occurred, President Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to oversee the National Gun Violence Task Force. NAESP and NASSP submitted comments to this task force for consideration and made the following recommendations:

  • Create a federal inter-agency coordinating council led by select agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Justice and Homeland Security.
  • Dedicate a nationwide public education and awareness campaign about the mental health needs of youth and adults, which are often shortchanged or neglected.
  • Remove barriers between education and local health service agencies, and encourage local communities to focus on schools as the “hub” for service delivery.
  • Create clear policies to support principals to build partnerships with community mental health service providers and local law enforcement.
  • Bolster federal programs to prevent bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools, which can have a dramatic impact in improving school safety and, correspondingly, achievement for all students.
  • Give states and local communities the ability to combine federal and state funding streams that flow from separate agencies where mental health and school safety can be addressed, and encourage community-based mental health organizations to work in cooperation with local law enforcement, schools, and other key community stakeholders to create a system of community-based mental health response and threat assessment.

Read the full letter here.

National education groups also sent a joint letter to the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, chaired by Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA), which can be read here.  

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Principals Organizations Support Obama's Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence

From the work of the National Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, President Obama released a proposal that, among other things, requires background checks for gun sales, bans military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and address school practices. Read NAESP’s blog post on understanding the proposal here. NAESP and NASSP released joint statement on the proposal:

“NASSP and NAESP applaud President Obama for his proposals to reduce gun violence and we pledge our support to ongoing efforts to make those proposals a reality. We’re encouraged by the call for support for more resource officers, school counselors, and psychologists, and that the decisions are made locally with schools. The recognition of the importance of open lines of communication among schools, community health agencies, and law-enforcement officials is also commendable. Stronger efforts to reduce bullying will be met with wide acceptance from school leaders, as will more resources to identify and address mental health issues and more training for educators to constructively participate in those efforts.”

Read the full statement here.

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