Federal school safety report makes policy recommendations

A federal commission has released a new report that makes recommendations on ways to keep students and teachers safe.

President Donald Trump established the Federal Commission on School Safety after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018. That shooting happened less than a month after the shooting at Marshall County High School on Jan. 23, 2018.

The commission — comprised of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen — spent nine months attending meetings, visiting schools, and holding listening sessions to get input from law enforcement officials, educators, and those affected by school violence, according to Department of Education news release.

Listening sessions were held in several states, including Kentucky, where Gov. Matt Bevin, former Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars, and Sen. Danny Carroll were among the leaders who took part.

On Dec. 18, the commission presented the 177-page school safety report to the president, who held a roundtable discussion in the White House. In attendance were members of the commission, as well as Byars.

The Department of Education calls the report a “comprehensive resource guide for keeping students, teachers safe at school.” It contains 93 best practice and policy recommendations divided into 19 chapters divided among three sections.

The first section, “Prevent,” recommends that “states should provide resources for their schools to help create a positive school climate where students feel connected to, rather than isolated from, their teachers and fellow students.” The section also includes recommendations on reducing online bullying and providing school-based mental health care services.

The second section, “Protect and Mitigate,” recommends “a comprehensive school safety plan that includes a requirement for school safety training for all school personnel.” In addition, the commission advises recruiting more veterans and retired law enforcement officers into education careers.

The last section, “Respond and Recover,” recommends that federal agencies develop active shooter preparedness training guidelines for educators and administrators.

Marshall County Schools Superintendent Trent Lovett says the collaboration between federal, state and local officials to improve school safety is a good sign.

“I think it’s something that’s probably long overdue — something we needed to do for many years. I mean, schools are supposed to be a safe haven for our students,” said Lovett.

Lovett also agrees that mental health services are important for students.

“To try to catch that at a younger age, any type of need that a student may have at a younger age, is vitally important,” Lovett said.

The superintendent hopes the dialogue between federal, state and local officials will eventually lead to a school resource officer being present in every school in the country. Currently, the Marshall County School District has five school resource officers, including three at the high school. Lovett also says the district has a safety commission that meets regularly.

The full report:

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