Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce held the chamber’s first hearing on school safety since the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut in which 26 young students and educators were killed by gunfire.
The six witnesses, who represented a range of perspectives, all agreed that arming teachers was not the best way of addressing school safety and instead proposed ideas that focused on addressing the mental health needs of students; building strong relationships with students, families and the community; collaboration with school resource offices; and addressing the high caseloads of school counselors and other professionals.
CEC, in collaboration with its division the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders (CCBD), submitted Congressional Testimony which calls on policymakers to address four key areas, many of which were highlighted at today’s hearing:
- School safety policy proposals should use an interdisciplinary approach that reinforces a partnership between education, juvenile justice, mental health, social welfare, and community engagement systems;
- School safety policy proposals should require implementation of evidence based practices that address prevention and response while ameliorating the stigma associated with mental illness;
- School safety policy proposals should focus on the impact of mental health challenges on students’ social, educational, and employment outcomes; and
- School safety policy proposals should confront and remedy the national shortage of special educators and specialized instructional support personnel who are trained to address the complex needs of students with mental health difficulties.
Additionally, the CEC/CCBD testimony provides practical steps policymakers can take to put these recommendations into action, such as supporting increased professional development for all school personnel; embracing whole school reforms that reinforce the important role of having a positive school climate and the collection of data and analysis tools to study and respond to school climate information; and addressing the national shortage of special educators and specialized instructional support personnel.
Over the last two months, various proposals by the Obama Administration and Congress have been put forth to address gun violence and to promote safety in schools and the community. CEC and CCBD are committed to working with lawmakers to promote policies and meaningful actions not only to address violence in schools and communities but to create solutions rooted in safety, prevention and an interdisciplinary approach.