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More guns in schools? We all know better

posted Apr 2, 2013, 1:18 PM by Julio Zaldivar   [ updated Apr 2, 2013, 1:18 PM by Julio Zaldivar ]

barbara

by Barbara Raymond
Director, Schools, Healthy California
Apr 02, 2013

The issue of school safety continues to be discussed in living rooms from the White House to our houses.  We all care deeply about keeping our kids safe.  Unfortunately, we’ve been here before.  This time we know what works, and it’s not putting more guns near our kids.

The public has excellent common sense:  in a recent poll on what makes schools safe, 67% of voters in California support adding more mental health counselors, nurses, and mentors to schools

Teachers, counselors, and school administrators should be the first line of defense in school safety. They are trained and credentialed in how to work with young people.  They have the tools to keep the school orderly and calm.  Law enforcement has an important a role to play in keeping schools safe – police have specialized training in responding to crises, planning for emergencies, and designing sites to be safe but welcoming.

After the Columbine tragedy, we learned that putting police in schools doesn’t always translate to more safety.  It often has the unintended consequence of increasing arrests for low-level disorderly conduct that would have otherwise been handled by school personnel.  An arrest is no small thing.  Arrests have serious negative consequences for our kids’ future: every arrest increases the risk for dropping out of school, committing future offenses, and being incarcerated as an adult.

When police are in schools, they need to be trained; they don’t just naturally know how to work with youth.  Voters in California overwhelmingly support training for police (88%).  Three programs proven to improve police understanding of young people are: Strategies for Youth: Policing the Teen Brain; Circle Solutions: Fair and Impartial Policing; and Model for Change’s Crisis Intervention Team Youth.  These programs reduce arrests and improve police-student interaction.  And they keep schools safe too.

Health happens in schools when we leave the teaching to teachers, counseling to counselors, and disciplining to the principal’s office.  A good rule to aim for is 2:1—two counselors, nurses, or mentors for every one police officer.  This way, people stay in their best roles and can work together to cultivate environments that support student success.

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