President Obama’s Plan to Make Our Schools Safer

Earlier today, President Obama introduced a new plan to keeps guns out of the wrong hands, make schools safer, and increase access to mental health services. “While reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge,” President Obama said during the announcement. “Protecting our children from harm shouldn’t be a divisive one,” he said.

now is the time imageAdmitting that we won’t be able to stop every violent act, the President introduced a plan that includes four common-sense steps the country can take right now to protect our children and communities:

    1. Closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of the dangerous hands;
    2. Banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and taking other common sense steps to reduce gun violence;
    3. Making schools safer; and
    4. Increasing access to mental health services.

The President’s plan to provide new resources that communities can use to make schools safer echoes what educators have been saying they need in order to protect students, including:

    • Hire school resource officers — specially trained police officers who not only enforce the law but act as teachers and mentors.
    • Hire school psychologists, social workers, and counselors to support students struggling with mental health issues and help avert crises before they occur.
    • Purchase school safety equipment, like security cameras and secure locking systems.

The Administration will also work with school districts across the country to ensure that every school has a high-quality emergency plan in place, and the President’s plan includes a proposal to help 8,000 schools put in place proven strategies to reduce bullying, drug abuse, violence, and other problem behaviors, and to gather and share best practices on school discipline.

Read Secretary Arne Duncan’s statement about the President’s plan, and click here to read more about the President’s plan, included additional details on the education proposals listed above.

Visit ED’s Readiness Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center for resources already available, including Creating and Updating School Emergency Management Plans.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

Resources for Schools to Prepare for and Recover from Crisis

All of us who work in education have broken hearts and are haunted by the tragedy visited on the educators, students, and families of the Newtown Public School District and Sandy Hook Elementary School. Whenever a school experiences violence and the lives of children and adults are lost, we struggle to find words to express our emotions and explain how this could have happened.

Schools are among the safest places for children and adolescents in our country, and, in fact, crime in schools has been trending downward for more than a decade. Nationwide statistics, however, provide little solace when 20 first-graders and six adults are senselessly gunned down in a small town’s elementary school. Accounts from Sandy Hook indicate that the school’s heroic principal and her staff had safety measures in place and had practiced their emergency procedures. As a result, children’s lives were saved and an even greater tragedy was averted.

Not all tragedies can be prevented. But schools and districts need to be ready to handle crises, large and small, to keep our children and staff out of harm’s way and ready to learn and teach, and to recover from such tragedies should they occur. As we reflect on what happened last week in Connecticut, I want to share some resources from the U.S. Department of Education’s Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center that may be helpful to you and your team, now and in the future.

As hard as it is to talk among adults about such a tragedy, it can be even more difficult to talk with students and our own children. Helping Youth and Children Recover from Traumatic Events is a compilation of resources from the Department of Education, other federal agencies, and counseling experts. It is so important to give children the chance to talk, write, or draw to express their emotions. Please create the time and space for them to do that.

For school districts and schools, the Department also has several resources on Creating and Updating School Emergency Management Plans. If you do have an emergency plan in place, please review it, update it as necessary, and practice that plan regularly. Knowing what to do when faced with a crisis can be the difference between calm and chaos.

The Department of Education’s first priority is to help the Newtown community cope in the aftermath of this horrific event. In the days and weeks ahead, we will work with state and local officials, as well as Congress, to do everything in our power to help Newtown begin the long process of recovery.

As President Obama said, our country has suffered through mass shootings and gun deaths of young people too many times, in too many places. As a nation, we must find the courage and the conviction to take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies – now.

As districts and school leaders take steps to prevent and prepare for possible emergencies in their community, they have my full support and deepest gratitude for taking on this difficult yet necessary work.

Click here to read “Resources for Parents following Traumatic Events.”

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education. This post is adapted from a message he sent to all U.S. school districts on Dec. 17.