President Barack Obama unveiled his plan to protect children and communities by reducing gun violence on Wednesday. Although much of it focused on closing background check loopholes and banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, there were several points specific to school security and to a lesser extent, university security.
"We need to make our schools safer, not only by enhancing their physical security and making sure they are prepared to respond to emergencies like a mass shooting, but also by creating safer and more nurturing school climates that help prevent school violence," the proposal states. "Each school is different and should have the flexibility to address its most pressing needs. Some schools will want trained and armed police; others may prefer increased counseling services. Either way, each district should be able to choose what is best to protect its own students."
Some specific points of the school safety proposal include:
- Putting up to 1,000 more school resource officers (SROs) and counselors in schools
- $150 million for school districts and law enforcement to hire SROs, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors. The grants could also be used to purchase safety equipment, develop and update plans, conduct threat assessments, and train crisis intervention teams. The General Services Administration will use its purchasing power to help schools buy safety equipment affordably.
- The Department of Justice will also develop a model for using school resource officers, including best practices on age-appropriate methods for working with students.
- The Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security will release—by May 2013—a set of model, high-quality emergency management plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education, along with best practices for developing these plans and training students and staff to follow them. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Department of Justice, will assist interested schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education in completing their own security assessments.
- $30 million one-time grants to states to help school districts development and implement emergency plans
- $50 million initiative to help 8,000 more schools train their teachers and other school staff to implement strategies that foster a more nurturing environment. The Administration will also develop a school climate survey, providing reliable data to help schools implement policies to improve climate.
- The Department of Education will collect and disseminate best practices for school discipline polices and help school districts develop and equitably implement their policies.
- $15 million for training for teachers and other adults who interact with youth to detect and respond to mental illness in children and young adults, including how to encourage adolescents and families experiencing these problems to seek treatment
- $40 million to help school districts work with law enforcement, mental health agencies, and other local organizations to ensure students with mental health issues or other behavioral issues are referred to the services they need
- $25 million for innovative state-based strategies supporting young people ages 16 to 25 with mental health or substance abuse issues
- $25 million to offer students mental health services for trauma or anxiety, conflict resolution programs, and other school-based violence prevention strategies
- $50 million to train social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals