WASHINGTON—A new school safety report commissioned by President Donald Trump in the wake of the February shooting in Parkland, Fla., throws support behind the use of school resource officers and school safety officers, and arming teachers to neutralize a shooter.
The Federal Commission on School Safety, the issuer of the report, sees the recommendations as a way to cut down on response times to active-shooter situations, especially in rural areas.
The report, released Dec. 18, cites the Lake Hamilton School District in Pearcy, Arkansas, where the superintendent told the commission it would take law enforcement 20 to 30 minutes to respond to an active-shooter situation.
In the six minutes after Nikolas Jacob Cruz, 19, opened fire at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he managed to shoot and kill 17 people.
Headed to Dc today to meet with @realDonaldTrump to roll out the new school safety recommendations . The most comprehensive report done after a school shooting by any https://t.co/msyrmbMBvI agenda just facts make our schools safe #fixit
— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) December 18, 2018
“We’re not willing to take that chance. We need someone to protect our kids,” Lake Hamilton Superintendent Steve Anderson told the commission.
School resource officers (SROs) are generally sworn law enforcement officers, while school safety officers (SSO) typically aren’t.
The commission says it supports training school staff and faculty to carry firearms in schools, saying it could be a cost-effective way of providing the protection that a school safety officer would without having to hire one.
In a conference call with reporters, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the commission “urges schools, districts, and states to seriously consider” partnering with local law enforcement in the training and arming of school personnel.
“Additionally, this report concludes that students would benefit from more veterans and retired law enforcement officers leveraging their knowledge and experience to serve in a variety of school roles,” she said.
The report says “several hundred” school districts already allow staff access to firearms on school campuses, “usually as part of a layered approach to school security.”
It also says that 10 states already have laws that allow school staff to possess or have access to firearms at school, including Florida, where a state commission reviewing the Parkland shooting recommended it, but the school board vetoed it.
That position doesn’t seem to differ from that of Trump, who has said arming teachers could deter shooters from targeting schools in the first place.
“If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons-talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved,” Trump tweeted in February, about a week after the Parkland attack.
Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House. Legislation moving forward. Bump Stocks will soon be out. Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!…….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2018
Announced the same day as the report, the administration said that starting in 90 days, bump stocks—devices that allow semi-automatic firearms to fire at almost the rate of automatic firearms—will be banned. Bump stocks were used in the October 2017 shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas that killed 58.
The commission report supports limiting access to firearms for people who pose a threat to themselves or others. It suggests states adopt a law that allows for “extreme risk protection orders” to be used to deny a person the right to buy or possess a firearm if they fall into such a category.
However, it stopped short of recommending age restrictions on firearm purchases, saying it would be ineffective in preventing school shootings because most school shooters obtain their firearms from friends and family.
The Federal School Safety Commision report is now public.
Thank you, @realDonaldTrump for doing what no other President has done by taking school safety seriously. Millions of children’s lives will be safer because you took action. https://t.co/yGAQ7GUjN0
— Hunter Pollack (@PollackHunter) December 18, 2018
The report covers a range of “recommendations” for state and local governments, but the administration made it clear that implementing them wasn’t optional.
“We will actually ensure implementation of the recommendations,” a senior administration official told reporters in a conference call.
When asked if there would be federal funding to help with implementing the recommendations, the administration said the report provided a range of options that could be tailored to any budget.
“Our conclusions in this report do not impose one-size-fits-all solutions for everyone, everywhere,” DeVos told reporters.
The commission is made of up the heads of the departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement that the Justice Department is already “directing funding” for school resource officers and improving the department’s background-check systems.
In March, Trump signed into law the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018 that authorized more than $1 billion in grant funding through fiscal year 2028.
“The foremost consideration for all members of the commission and the staff who worked on this report was ensuring that those recommendations would have some modicum of funding, whether it’s existing or novel, or put in collaboration with states,” a senior administration official said.