From the National School Boards Association
One month and two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama issued 23 executive actions Jan. 16 that he says will strengthen school safety and prevent gun violence. He also called on Congress to pass tougher gun-control measures, including banning some assault rifles and magazines and requiring background checks for purchasing all guns.
NSBA was represented by Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel at the White House event. Obama announced a campaign entitled “Now is the Time,” that outlines his plans for preventing gun violence.
The executive actions pertaining to school safety include:
Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers;
Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education;
Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations;
Launch a national conversation on mental health with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The orders and proposals were “based on an emerging consensus from all the groups we heard,” said Vice President Joe Biden. At the request of the president, Biden oversaw a task force designed to field recommendations from key stakeholder groups to curb gun violence in the United States. The White House has emphasized that local school leaders would be able to choose the safety measures for their schools as they see fit.
“We commend President Obama for his efforts to ensure that all schools are safe places,” Gentzel said. “We look forward to working with the administration and Congress in a collaborative effort to address this important issue.”
NSBA called for the expansion of school safety zones and more school resource officers during a Jan. 9 White House meeting with Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, who fielded recommendations from about a dozen major education groups as part of the vice president’s task force.
NSBA’s Director of Federal Legislation Deborah Rigsby participated in that session and also recommended greater access to mental health services and resources for greater coordination between law enforcement agencies and school districts.
Other organizations represented at the event included the American Association of School Administrators, National PTA, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, School Social Work Association of America, Council of Chief State School Officers, Mothers in Charge, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Council for Exceptional Children, and Council of Great City Schools.
Some of the groups discussed ideas such as creating a federal interagency council on school safety, and training development and support for school principals on preparation and preparedness.
NSBA and some of the groups did not take a specific position on gun control, but others expressed opposition to arming teachers with guns, Rigsby said.