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.
Other proposals in the president’s package that would touch schools directly include:
- Training for 14,000 law enforcement officers and school officials in how to handle active-shooter situations.
- Comprehensive School Safety grants – schools that receive a portion of the $150 million mentioned above for resource officers or counselors could also use part of the money for buying safety equipment, conducting threat assessments, and training crisis-intervention teams.
- A requirement that schools receiving federal funding for safety develop and practice emergency plans. While 84 percent of schools had a written response plan for a shooting in 2010, only 52 percent had drilled their students in the past year, according to the White House. This spring, a set of model plans will be made available, and $30 million in grants is proposed to help districts develop their own plans.
- $50 million to fund 8,000 school plans to create safer and more nurturing climates through evidence-based practices to reduce bullying and other problematic behaviors.
- “Mental health first aid” training for teachers – $15 million to help educators and others who work with youths to detect signs of mental illness.
- $40 million to help school officials work with law enforcement and mental-health agencies to ensure that students with problems are referred to get the help they need.
- $25 million for state-based strategies to support 16- to 25-year-olds with mental-health or substance-abuse problems.
- $25 million to help students traumatized by violence and to support conflict-resolution and other violence-prevention strategies.