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The ACA Government Affairs team strives to keep the counseling community connected with important legislative news, updates, and announcements that affect the profession. Questions? Want to get involved in our advocacy efforts? Email us at advocacy@counseling.org 


 

Dec 20, 2018

Federal Report on School Safety Released

The Federal Commission on School Safety, established after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., released a 180-page final report on Dec. 18 containing 93 recommendations for improving school safety nationwide, including greater access to mental health services in schools.

"Through the commission's work, it has become even clearer there is no single policy that will make our schools safer,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the chair of the Federal Commission on School Safety, said in a statement accompanying the release of the report.

“What will work for schools in Montana will be different than what will work for schools in Manhattan. With that in mind, this report provides a wide-ranging menu of best practices and resources that all state, community and school leaders should consider while developing school safety plans and procedures that will work for their students and teachers."

The members of the commission include Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a member of the commission until his departure from the administration.

Inside the Final Report

To prepare the report, members of the commission met with subject matter experts, educators, law enforcement officials and individuals affected by school violence. Field visits included travel to schools in nearly 40 states to learn about current best practices. Listening sessions held across the country provided opportunities for the public to offer recommendations.

The final report is designed as a resource guide for families, educators, law enforcement officers, health professionals and elected officials to use as they consider the best ways to prevent and recover from school violence. The report is organized into three broad categories: Prevent, Protect & Mitigate and Respond & Recover.

The Recommendations

The report’s 93 recommendations cover an array of topics—from mental health services to the way the media should cover school violence. The recommendations include:

  • Providing better access to mental health services for children. 
  • Fostering social-emotional learning for students.
  • Making student character development a priority.
  • Fostering a climate of belonging for students.

Among its recommendations, the commission proposed a rollback of 2014 guidance meant to curb disparities in school discipline. That guidance, created after a finding that students of color and students with disabilities faced discipline more often than their classmates, was aimed at ensuring education agencies comply with federal obligations.

According to the Federal Commission on School Safety, the 2014 guidance left schools afraid to take action against potentially violent students.

“As a result, fearful of potential investigations, some school districts may have driven their discipline policies and practices more by numbers than by teacher input,” the commission said in its report.

Without the regulation, the commission said, schools still would not be allowed to discriminate against students and would be required to comply with federal obligations.

“When there is evidence beyond a mere statistical disparity that educational programs and policies may violate the federal prohibition on racial discrimination, this Administration will act swiftly and decisively to investigate and remedy any discrimination,” the commission said in the report.

 

 

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