By Alvin A. Reid
While the 2022 school year had begun, efforts to keep students safe while in school buildings should be intensified, says Congresswoman 1st Congressional District US. Rep. Cori Bush.
Bush and 30 Democratic colleagues requested in a letter to the respective Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services that a review of gun violence prevention strategies in schools and establish a comprehensive plan that meets the holistic emotional, health, and safety needs should begin immediately.
“We recognize that even when law enforcement responses are functioning optimally, they cannot prevent atrocities from occurring. To that end, we urge you to break this cycle of violence and recommit to public health and safety strategies that will ensure our schools are safe for all students,” wrote Bush and fellow lawmakers.
“This requires thinking comprehensively about violence in our schools to ensure that we prevent violence – by resolving the root causes of conflict that can escalate into violence – not simply remedy its impact.
The legislators are requesting “a holistic review of any and all non-punitive, non-law enforcement preventative safety measures currently in schools, the health and safety impacts of such measures, and steps your agencies intend to take to meet the needs of our child and prevent the onslaught of violence we are currently witnessing in our schools.”
The request comes in the aftermath of the Uvalde, Texas shootings at Robb Elementary School which left 19 children and two teachers dead. It marked the deadliest U.S. school shooting in nearly a decade.
“Schools are supposed to be safe havens for children, parents, educators, custodial and cafeteria staff, and communities. But for far too many people they are not,” the letter reads.
“We are deeply troubled by the inability to keep our children and communities safe, the bedrock on which any country rests. It is time to undo the harm and trauma tragedies like the Uvalde massacre leave behind in our schools and with our children.”
House lawmakers said federal, state, and local agencies have failed the American public by focusing school safety prevention efforts on hiring, retaining, and funding school resource officers, an approach they called “counterproductive and harmful.”
Representatives disparaged to the Community Oriented Policing Services in Schools Program (COPS), which has primarily supported community policing initiatives since 1995 but has also led to the hiring of 590 school resource officers (SROs) across 289 communities. For fiscal 2023, the Biden administration has requested increased funds for the COPS budget.
“Armed officers in schools are, at best, an inadequate response to violence that has already occurred, not a prevention strategy,” lawmakers wrote.
Since the 1999 shooting at Columbine, school shootings have soared, reaching an all-time high of 251 last year, according to the K-12 school shooting database. Despite the rise, major gun control legislation was tied up until the first major federal gun control bill in decades was passed this year after the Uvalde shooting.
Over the years, school shooting prevention methods have largely revolved around bolstering school security, including security technology and emergency plans.
Gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety says among the most effective ways to prevent school shootings is to address violence at its earliest stages and block access to firearms.
Lawmakers on Tuesday proposed more programs to support students, including mental health resources, but they requested the federal agencies to conduct a review of what is most appropriate.