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Want Safe Schools? Start With Research-Based School Discipline Policies

By Linda Darling-Hammond | May 16, 2019

In response to school shootings in recent years, states, districts and schools have made investments to beef up school security systems and increase armed security personnel on campuses. In addition, at least 28 states are considering bills to place additional armed personnel, including teachers, in schools including Florida, which just passed legislation to arm teachers.

These approaches are strongly opposed by most teachers, parents, students and law enforcement—and for good reason. Ample research shows that bringing guns into schools, whether they are carried by teachers or by security officers, makes them less safe.

One recent report found 60 reported incidents of adults mishandling guns in schools in the last five years. These included multiple cases of guns being left unattended in elementary and middle school restrooms and in other locations where they were often found by children, including some cases of guns accidentally discharged by children in different contexts.

There were also at least 13 cases in which loaded guns were accidentally or deliberately discharged by adults in schools, several leading to injuries: One teacher accidentally discharged a gun in class injuring a 17-year old boy when fragments from the bullet ricocheted off the ceiling and lodged into his neck. Another unintentionally discharged a gun in a first-grade classroom and injured a student who was struck by a fragment. A parent fired a gun at an elementary school, and the bullet ricocheted, striking a woman. In two incidents where there were physical struggles between a student and an officer, the officer’s gun discharged, one resulting in injury to the student. In several other incidents, school resource officers discharged guns on school grounds, shooting themselves or others. In still others, school staff or resource officers threatened to shoot students with whom they were angry while brandishing guns. These approaches to school safety, which emphasize “security,” can, paradoxically, make schools less safe

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