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Should Teachers Carry Concealed Guns in School?

Most people would call this a terrible idea that’s fraught with danger.  But a Nebraska lawmaker has just filed a bill to give school districts the option of allowing teachers to carry concealed guns.  State Sen. Mark Christensen says teachers with gun permits and proper training might deter a tragedy.

As the Christian Science Monitor reports, this idea follows two school shootings in the last three weeks:

  • An Omaha high school senior killed an assistant principal and wounded a principal, before shooting himself.
  • A Los Angeles student with a gun in her book bag accidentally wounded two other kids.

The only school system in the country that has a concealed weapons policy is in rural Harrold, Texas.  School Superintendent David Thweatt says police in his county are 30 minutes away, and his tiny school system cannot afford School Resource Officers.   Their policy requires extensive training, and the use of certain types of bullets that cut down on ricochet and collateral damage.

Forty-three states, including Georgia, prohibit guns in K-12 schools.  And the idea of arming teachers  is not popular with experts.  School security consultant Ken Trump warns that concealed weapons would not make schools safer.  Daniel Vice from the Brady Center says guns in the classroom would be extremely dangerous and the risk of accidents is too high.

Ken Trump: Stop Protecting Hamburger Better Than School Kids

Fast food restaurants and shopping centers for years have had better security than many schools.  Yet there are still people questioning security measures, such as cameras and police officers, being placed in our schools.

In most fast food restaurants, you can only enter through a limited number of open doors.  When you step inside, you are usually promptly greeted and asked how you can be helped. Many of these facilities have surveillance cameras inside and out, and even at the drive-through windows.

Too often, we still do not see this level of security in some of our nation’s schools .

Seriously – think about it:  For years we have protected hamburger better than our school children and teachers.

I find it interesting not only many students, but also many adults, don’t have a problem with police, security cameras, and other protection measures for their suburban shopping mall security or at a fast food restaurant.  Yet some of these same individuals believe we should have a lower standard of protection for students and teachers in schools.

Defining Reasonable School Security

Schools reflect the broader society in which we live.  If there are threats to safety in the community, why would be so naive to believe we should not take reasonable risk reduction measures to protect kids and teachers in schools? Many high schools have one to three thousand students there every day, which is as large as some smaller communities in this country.

The key issue, then, seems to not be whether we should have reasonable security measures in school.   The questions should instead focus on, “What is reasonable?” 

School safety must include a balanced and comprehensive approach ranging from prevention to preparedness.  The first and best line of defense will always be a well trained, highly alert staff and student body.  Relationships among students and staff is a key school safety factor, but properly designed physical security measures (controlling access, communications capabilities, and properly used cameras, for example) along with professional safety staffing (school resource officers and/or school security staff) can also be a viable part of the equation.

We should not have a double-standard for protecting kids in schools at a low level (or not at all) in comparison to protecting kids and adults at other public places (malls, recreation centers, sports and entertainment complexes, the local grocery store, etc.).

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Republished with permission from Ken Trump, a national consultant, speaker, author and expert on K-12 school safety and security, emergency preparedness and crisis planning.  He writes regularly at  http://www.schoolsecurityblog.com

Ken Trump: Federal Bullying Police Coming to a School Near You

“We’re the federal government, and we’re here to  help investigate you.”

The Education and Justice Departments are now taking on investigatory and prosecutorial roles against school districts on bullying and harassment cases.  Historically their roles have centered on research, along with funding prevention and intervention programs on these issues.

The U.S. Department of Education and its Office of Civil Rights reaffirmed last week it would be “vigorously” investigating local school districts on complaints against the districts related to bullying and harassment. The Department’s statement followed up on presentations made by Education Department officials at their “bullying summit” two weeks ago where they announced they would be “proactively investigating” schools on bullying complaints.

Last week the Justice Department entered the fray by filing an “amicus curiae” or “friend of the court” motion in a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Indian River Central School District in New York.  The case involves claims of discrimination (based on sex) by the school district in connection with harassment, physical assaults, and threats against a gay former student.  The suit reportedly claims the district refused to help him and refused to allow him to form a Gay-Straight Alliance at the high school.

According to the news report, the lawsuit was brought by Lambda Legal, a national organization that defends the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The school district filed a motion to dismiss the suit.  The Justice Department stepped in, disagreeing with at least three main reasons for which the district believes the suit should be dismissed.

My Take

The radical policy shift of the federal government from a research and program funder to a proactive investigatory and prosecutorial type function is extremely intriguing.

First, it raises the issue of local control. School boards and administrators have traditionally fought hard to keep the lead in addressing school-based discipline, school climate strategies, school security, school relationships with police and the juvenile justice system, and related issues.  The shift by the federal government to a proactive investigatory role begs questions of whether this shift represents an overreach by the federal government.

Second, this shift also begs a number of questions of the professional education associations. What is the position of the national associations for superintendents, principals, and school boards?  Are they on board with this new policy and philosophy? Are their members willing to open their doors to federal investigators probing their disciplinary actions, climate strategies, and other interests and issues raised by complainants and the feds?  If so, are they putting this “on the record” and if not, are they openly voicing their concerns?

Third, what protections will be built in to prevent frivilous claims and investigations?  What will be put in place to prevent a parent or guardian  with a vendetta or political agenda against their district leaders from filing a civil rights complaint against the principal or superintendent?

What system will be put in place to prevent overloading the feds with frivilous complaints which could detract from investigating fewer, but more credible and substantative, complaints?

Fourth, will school districts get into a position where it is politically easier to cave in when an unwarranted civil rights complaint is filed, leaving the district to follow through with a compliance order issued by the feds to resolve the complaint?

Finally (for now), where will school districts draw additional funds for legal expenses to represent the district during typically long, drawn out civil rights investigations — especially in today’s financial crisis facing schools?

What’s your take?

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Republished with permission from Ken Trump, a national consultant, speaker, author and expert on K-12 school safety and security, emergency preparedness and crisis planning.  He writes regularly at  http://www.schoolsecurityblog.com

Ken Trump: School Crime Stats Unreliable

Parents don’t know what they don’t know, and nobody is rushing to tell them. School crime statistics overall are underreported and unreliable.

Student Victimization in U.S. Schools: Results For the 2007 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey was released this week. It didn’t take long for Tweets to pop up on Twitter announcing the report’s citations on students who were victims of bullying.

The report highlighted “findings” which were so obvious, one would have to ask why the federal government would even ask such questions and perhaps more importantly, why they would think it would be some major revelation to readers:

  • “The percentage of student victims of violent crimes who reported being afraid of attack or harm at school (23.2 percent) was higher than that of nonvictims (4.9 percent) (figure 5 and table 7)”
  • “A higher percentage of students reporting any crime avoided specific places at school because of fear of attack or harm than did nonvictims (13.1 percent vs. 5.4 percent) (figuure 5 and table 7)”

Well, duh…no kidding? And you spent how much federal tax money to come to that conclusion?

Doesn’t common sense tell us that students who are victims of crimes at school would be more fearful of attack or harm than students who have not been victmized? Wouldn’t one expect this to be an obvious and normal reaction? And wouldn’t you expect them to avoid specific places because of fear of attack if they have previously been victimized?

The U.S. Department of Education’s school crime statistics are, by-and-large, a joke. They have been for many years. They typically reflect outdated data (this report is for 2007, published in mid-2010) and are based upon a limited number of academic research surveys instead of actual incident-based data and/or law enforcement data.

Why? The answer is simple: There is no federal mandatory school crime reporting and tracking for K-12 schools. The federal government’s response, while presumably well-intended, is based on a hodgepodge collection of academic research studies. The real story is often told in the fine print but unfortunately, the media and others who cite the report either rarely read the fine print or simply don’t care.

At the end of the second paragraph on page iii, the “Highlights” page, the report states:

  • “Readers should be alerted to the limitations of the survey design and the analytical approach used here with regard to causality. Conclusions about causality between school or student characteristics and victimization cannot be made due to the cross-sectional, nonexperimental design of the SCS.”

So in short an educator or school safety professional can conclude nothing about causality because of how the data was collected and the project design. So why bother doing the project and report?

Dig deeper into pages 2-3 and on page A-5, and you’ll find numerous data limitations and disclaimers. While the researchers appear to have made a valiant effort, the report contains so many limitations and disclaimers that it creates the perception that one should take this report, and the numbers therein, with a grain of salt. I think they’re correct.

We already know school crimes are often underreported to state departments of education and to law enforcement.

Lessons learned: Base your school district’s policy and funding decisions based upon local school and public safety. Include incident-based, law enforcement data in addition to surveys. And if you’re going to do something, do it right — which includes the media, who should also be reading the fine print disclaimers.

Parents Beware! School crime and discipline data is sometimes not worth the paper (or web site) upon which it is written. Start by reading the fine print first. It may save you the time of reading the rest of the report.

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Republished with permission from Ken Trump, a national consultant, speaker, author and expert on K-12 school safety and security, emergency preparedness and crisis planning.  He writes regularly at  http://www.schoolsecurityblog.com