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Beyond gun control: Will Obama's plans make schools safer? (+video)

In addition to his gun-control proposals, President Obama unveiled plans designed to make schools more secure. Education groups are largely supportive.

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Many education groups applauded President Obama’s proposals and executive actions Wednesday – particularly the broad gun-control agenda that took center stage because of the high-powered weapon used in an attack on schoolchildren and staff in Newtown, Conn., and other recent mass shootings.

Mr. Obama’s recommendations range from more funding for school police, counselors, and emergency planning to training for educators to detect signs of mental illness among students.

But is the stage really set for the federal government to make a large-scale difference in school safety? Or, as some experts suggest, will a flurry of attention to the issue fade off priority lists for schools in this tight-budget era, much the way it did after the initial post-Columbine focus on bullying and school safety?

While that’s difficult to predict – especially since many of the proposals would need approval from Congress to even get off the ground – a range of education groups said the comprehensive approach takes to heart their recommendations and signals an important first step.

 “We thank the president for using his lofty podium to push for these ideas that, if implemented, will undoubtedly make schools safer," says Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. “We’re happy to see that what’s not in the proposal is arming the teachers."

Providing incentives for schools to hire more school resource officers (SROs) was one of the 23 executive actions Obama took Wednesday. He also proposed $150 million to place an additional 1,000 SROs, counselors, or psychologists in schools.

Resource officers are “particularly valuable for prevention … [because] students who hear veiled threats and warnings that often precede rampage shootings feel most comfortable turning to SROs, who they believe will be responsive but discreet,” writes Katherine Newman, author of “Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings” and a dean at Johns Hopkins University, in an e-mail.


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