In response to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, in early January President Barack Obama issued a plan, called Now is the Time that focuses on bolstering mental health services and public school safety to prevent similar tragedies.
While some items the President requested would require Congressional funding, others will be directly and immediately implemented through executive order, including greater incentives for schools to hire school resource officers, and prioritizing applications for these officers that use U.S. Department of Justice COPs program. The Plan also calls for the:
- U.S. Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security to create by May 2013 model emergency response plans for schools, and institutions of higher education, including training tips for teachers and students.
- U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to hold a "national dialogue" on mental health issues.
The President’s plan also asks Congress to invest in programs that will help curb violence in schools and address coordination of mental health services. This portion of the plan includes the following:
- $150 million to fund a Comprehensive School Safety Program to help school districts and law enforcement agencies hire 1,000 additional staff members and/or purchase or upgrade school safety equipment and train teams of staff members to assist students in a crisis.
- $30 million in one-time grants to states to help school districts develop and implement emergency management plans.
- $50 million help 8,000 schools put in place new strategies to improve school climate and discipline, among other proposals.
Several of these programs would, if enacted, enhance schools’ ability to create and sustain positive climates. Read CEC’s Policy on Safe and Positive School Climate to check out ideas for your school and read the President’s plan to see how it might impact your school in the future.