Armed security officers in schools increasing: Report
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK CITY) — More and more schools are using armed security personnel, according to a report released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Roughly 72 percent of secondary and 45 percent of primary schools report having security staff present last year, up from 63 percent and 26 percent, respectively, a decade ago. The vast majority of security personnel carry a firearm, data show.
During the 2014-2015 school year, 20 children were murdered at school, the report said. Two people were killed by law enforcement officers intervening in a disturbance.
The report comes amid fierce debate over whether public schools should arm teachers — a controversial proposition that Trump floated during the White House’s school safety listening session after the Parkland, Fla. school shooting last month.
But critics argue that there’s a “stark contrast” between deploying armed law enforcement in schools and equipping teachers with firearms they may not feel comfortable using.
“Sworn, certified law enforcement officers are a tremendous benefit in schools,” National Association of School Resource Officers Executive Director Mo Canady tells ABC News.
“We would prefer to see armed law enforcement in every school of the country,” he continued. But “it’s got to be the right officer, and they’ve got to be properly trained.”
According to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, any plan endorsed by the administration would have to include “lots and lots of training.” Arming teachers would be an “option,” not a “requirement,” she said.
But some advocates worry that Trump’s federal commission on school safety, which met for the first time Wednesday, will fight for guns in every classroom.
“Our students deserve better than hollow words and an insincere, closed and secretive commission,” National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said. “The commission’s clear purpose is to push an agenda that is focused on a dangerous and misguided plan to put more guns in schools by arming teachers and other school personnel.”
Others have chastised the commission — made up of the attorney general and secretaries of the departments of Education, Homeland Security, and Health & Human Services — for excluding teachers and students from the first meeting, which occurred behind closed doors.
“Teachers and parents have gotten pretty used to Education Secretary DeVos shutting us out… so it’s no surprise we weren’t invited or consulted,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.
“The only ones being ‘insincere’ here are the union bosses. Absolutely no one is being ‘shut out,’” Education Department press secretary Liz Hill told ABC News. “This week’s meeting was organizational in nature for primary members to discuss staffing, timelines, scope and locations for field engagements. As was announced on day one, advocates, parents, teachers, students, administrators, law enforcement, mental health professionals and others with be actively engaged in and critical to the commission’s work.”
In a statement, DeVos said that “while there are positive trends in the annual report on crime and school safety, we know – and tragically have been reminded in recent weeks – there is much more to be done to keep our Nation’s students and teachers safe at school. The Federal Commission on School Safety is committed to working quickly to identify and highlight best practices and solutions that state and local leaders can implement to improve school safety.”
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