Thursday, June 20, 2013

White House Guidelines: Don't Arm Teachers by JACKIE ZUBRZYCKI

Yesterday, the Obama administration released the comprehensive emergency guidelines for school districts it had first promised after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn. this winter.

The guidelines were written jointly by the U.S. departments of Education, Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and contain lessons and suggestions from each. They deal with prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery from technological, human-caused, natural, and biological threats. The document is quite thorough, touching on everything from school design and storm shelters to planning emergency drills to balancing privacy and safety.

It's important to note that this is explicitly a guide, not a new set of federal requirements. It reads as a compilation of the lessons and best practices that have been gleaned from agencies and schools that have had to cope with various types of emergencies in the past.

Though the report's recommendations about storm cellars and buildings will seem particularly timely after the tornadoes in Oklahoma this spring, the active shooter section that was developed in response to Newtown is particularly resonant and in-depth.

That section addresses head on the debate that raged this spring about whether school employees should be armed, as the National Rifle Association suggested this winter: This guide says that, though it may be frightening, staff should be asked to consider confronting active shooters as a last resort, noting that in a study, 16 out of 41 active-shooter events were stopped by potential victims. But, the guide specifies, "the possibility of an active shooter situation is not justification for the presence of firearms on campus in the hands of any personnel other ­­than law enforcement officers."

A Detailed Look at Emergency Planning

The guidance starts more broadly. It details a six-part process for schools looking to develop emergency plans: Forming a collaborative team, understanding threats, determining goals and objectives, developing specific courses of actions, reviewing plans, and implementing and maintaining the plan. Schools are encouraged to reach out to other local agencies as they assess the threats they face and their capacity to respond to them.

To read more, click on the following link:

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