Let’s get serious about school safety
Nearly two decades separate the tragedies at Columbine High School in 1999 and Stoneman Douglas High School, but our nation is still searching for a solution.
If we really want to make schools safer, we must acknowledge the complex factors at play and the different ways violence manifests itself in our nation’s schools. We must also have a broader and more caring conversation—one that includes mental health, family breakdown, culture, media, and more.
Let’s get serious about school safety. Here are 10 questions we should start asking.
The knee-jerk answer by many liberals is ‘ban guns.’ But I think the questions we face are just too complex to be resolved by two little words.”
Kay Coles James
President, The Heritage Foundation
The Heritage Foundation is convening a School Safety Teach-In on Wednesday, March 21, and Thursday, March 22. Our goal at this workshop is to share important information that Americans can bring back to their communities to help direct the debate toward real solutions.
Participants will learn more about the events of February 14 in Parkland, Florida, how they might have been prevented, and the real causes of school violence. We’ll take a deep dive into solutions—including hearing about programs that strengthen families and make schools safer.
Would you like to learn more about the event? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Firearms are used in self-defense hundreds of thousands of times each year.
- Most gun-related crimes are carried out with illegally owned firearms—as much as 80%, according to some estimates.
- Over 90% of public mass shootings take place in “gun-free zones” where civilians are not permitted to carry firearms.
- An estimated 60% of mass public shooters were diagnosed with a mental disorder or had demonstrated signs of serious mental illness.
- Adolescents living in intact families are less likely to exhibit violent behaviors or engage in fighting, and report lower levels of stress.
Preserving School Safety
- There are many security options that have been employed in some schools and countries across the world, including armed guards, improved locks and cameras, magnetometers, concealed carry, or on-site police substations.
- We have an incredibly diverse range of nearly 100,000 public schools across the country, each with their own needs and challenges.
- Decisions about school security should be determined by states and local entities, to make sure solutions are tailored to each school that needs them.
School Counseling and Discipline
- Programs like Violence-Free Zone initiative of The Woodson Center and Operation CeaseFire have made significant progress in addressing student and youth violence.
- Innovative solutions like these can be tailored to each community’s needs and focus resources on the roots of violence.
Respecting the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
- The Second Amendment right of Americans to “keep and bear arms” is essential to a free society.
- Lawmakers should not rush to create new laws that violate constitutional rights while ignoring the real root causes of complex societal problems that deserve attention.
- Far from being the source of violence, guns are often the solutions. Communities with right-to-carry laws often see a decline in murder rates and violent crimes as gun owners deter and defend against these threats.
- New laws will not keep guns from criminals any more than current ones have; they will only make it more difficult for law-abiding people to protect their homes and families.
Addressing Mental Illness
- Many mass killers in this country have suffered from untreated severe mental illnesses. A 2000 New York Times study of 100 rampage murderers that took place over several decades found that 48 had some kind of formal diagnosis; more had histories of serious mental health issues.
- States need to reevaluate whether their current strategies are adequately serving the needs of the mentally ill.
- The federal government has a weak track record on mental health programs, imposing restrictions that hold states back from providing solutions. States should be primarily responsible for determining mental health services.
- Both federal and state governments need to ensure their laws concerning information sharing give those responsible for protecting schoolchildren the information they need to respond to serious risks of violence.
Addressing Cultural Issues
- Family plays an essential role in developing thriving children and adolescents, and its role must be respected in policy and supported in communities. Unfortunately, more and more children are experiencing disruptions in what ought to be their most secure environment.
- Civil society institutions, like churches and support groups, play a critical role in building and maintaining safe and thriving communities.
- Individuals, families, communities, and corporations need to make responsible choices regarding violence in media production and consumption.
- Improve school security by making sure states and local districts have the flexibility they need to meet the challenges they face.
- Pursue innovative programs at the local level to address youth conflict and gang violence.
- Ensure Americans can defend themselves from violence by respecting the right to bear arms, and allowing qualified teachers and administrators to carry guns on school grounds for protection, where appropriate.
- Allow states to pursue more robust, effective mental health care and solutions and reduce federal restrictions that hold them back.
- Support the role of families, churches, and other community institutions in nurturing thriving children and adolescents.