December 18, 2018

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AASA Issues Statement on the Federal School Safety Commission Report

Alexandria, Va. – Dec. 18, 2018 – Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued the following statement on a report issued today by the Federal School Safety Commission.   

“We appreciate that the Federal School Safety Commission has put forward a report that lifts up some promising school district practices related to building positive school climates, addressing and mitigating cyberbullying, and promoting screening and early intervention for mental/substance use disorders. In particular, we are glad the Commission endorsed one of our key recommendations—create a federal clearinghouse to assess, identify, and share best practices related to school security measures, technologies and innovations for school district leaders.  

 “While a compendium of recommendations can be helpful to a well-resourced district, which can adopt and implement a multitude of best practices found in the report relatively easily, we are concerned the majority of districts in the U.S. cannot dedicate the resources to fulfilling some of the most basic recommendations of the report. 

“Further, only one recommendation in the report suggests Congress increases funding and we are deeply concerned that districts with varying needs and resources will not be able to benefit from the report simply because they lack access to the funding that would enable them to adopt some of these best practices and policies.  

The Commission has chosen to ‘pass the buck’ to states, hoping that states will find the money to support state and district efforts; or worse, advise federal agencies on how they can use limited, existing federal resources to comprehensively address the myriad of challenges that prevent tragedies in schools. The disconnect between the expansion of a federal list of best or improved practices—many of which have substance—in light of the current funding trends, merely dilutes the opportunity for improving student safety and will leave many policy makers and educators playing a game of ‘shuffling of deck chairs’ as they scramble with yet another growth in the federal list of things they could and should do without the appropriate support. 

“Specifically, if a district cannot afford to hire a mental health provider, it’s hard to imagine how recommendations to adopt comprehensive school-based mental health care services could be meaningfully implemented. Similarly, if a district has been unable to afford updating its buildings for 40 years, it’s impossible to imagine they would be well-served by a recommendation to limit entry points by rerouting roads or eliminating access points to the building.    

“Ultimately, the Federal School Safety Commission’s report has limited utility for school leaders and its purported audience, if school leaders lack the resources to fulfill the best practices and recommendations of the report.

“Finally, we are disappointed by the decision to recommend policy changes related to the 2014 discipline guidance within the School Safety Commission report is misplaced. The 2014 guidance has flaws and limited value for school leaders based on our 2018 survey of school leaders that found only 16 percent of districts modified policies and practices because of the guidance. What school leaders have most strongly objected to was how the prior Administration investigated school district discipline policies prior to and after the issuance of the guidance. This concern is not addressed by simply rescinding the guidance nor is it addressed by any of the policies in the report.” 


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