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A Message from Superintendent Dr. Glass on School Safety

A Message from Superintendent Dr. Glass on School Safety
Posted on 02/26/2018

Superintendent Dr. Jason GlassIn the wake of yet another horrific school shooting, the public debate re-opens about what we might do to prevent such tragedies in the future.

From one side, we get calls for greater gun regulation. From the other side, we get calls to give guns to educators. While we get an intense debate, neither of these solutions gets traction.
A solution is only a solution if we can enact it. We are not able to get either of these solutions passed into law, so they have no impact. Effectively, these approaches are irrelevant considering their track record of legislative success.

So, we re-enter a vicious cycle with each school shooting. We go from shock to grieving to blame for calls for action to inaction and stalemate in a matter of days. Soon, the story and outrage fade from the news and social media – and we wait for the next tragedy to strike.

And it will.

We need a solution that breaks the vicious cycle and provides us with a real chance at securing our schools from harm. Here are four actionable and interconnected solutions that would go a long way in improving the safety of our schools, nationally.

  1. Put a trained, armed, law-enforcement officer in every school in the United States. These positions are called School Resource Officers, and they are typically part of the local police force or Sheriff’s office. These police officers also have specialized training on working with students and families in schools. School Resource Officers would coordinate security and would provide trained and armed protection for our students and staff.
  2. Increase support for school mental health supports and interventions. School mental health support staff (including counselors and psychologists) conduct assessments and provide follow-up support when students and families are in crisis. But there aren’t enough of them, and these professionals need ongoing training on how to support or get help for students and families.
  3. Create a federally-funded center on school safety and security. Possibly housed within the Department of Homeland Security, this national think-tank would study school violence and provide up-to-date best practices for schools around how to prevent violence from occurring and what steps to take when it does. When there is an airline accident, there is a robust analysis of what happened and procedures all across the country change and adapt. We need this sort of national analysis and support for schools when it comes preventing school violence as well.
  4. Improve the physical safety of our school buildings. We’ve had to make architectural and access changes to places like airports, court buildings, stadiums, and embassies regarding screening devices and procedures, locking and access systems, and surveillance. The federal government should establish a zero-interest borrowing program for schools to upgrade and keep their buildings and screening technology state-of-the-art when it comes to school safety. Doing so would make school safety systems available to any school, regardless of their relative wealth.

These solutions need to come from the federal level to create the scale and impact we need. A state-by-state and community-by-community approach to this will lead to a piecemeal approach that will take decades to implement. Flexibility and deference can be built into these solutions to accommodate differences across states and communities.

These four interconnected solutions provide actionable steps that would make a big impact in making our schools much safer than they are today. They are also not going to be free. By my estimations, to implement these four solutions at scale in the United States we will need somewhere around $10 billion, no small sum.

However, let us put $10 billion in perspective, the President’s recent budget proposal calls for a $75 billion increase in defense spending, bringing that total to $686 billion for 2019 (and rising to $742 billion in 2023). Also, he has proposed $25 billion for a border wall with Mexico. While making no statements on the prudence and necessity of these increases, I would argue that the threat facing our schools is more critical at this juncture.

Since Sandy Hook in 2012, there have been 438 people shot and 138 of them killed in 239 school shootings. If some foreign force were coming into our schools and murdering our children, we would consider it an act of war and marshal whatever it took to protect them.
Collectively, we have shrugged our shoulders and turned away after each of these tragedies.

No more, America. No more.

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