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On December 18, 2018, the Federal Commission on School Safety (“Commission”) released its 180-page Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety (“Report”) that identifies 93 best practices and policies for improving school safety across the nation.  Approximately nine months ago, the Trump Administration created the Commission in the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and tasked it with producing research-based recommendations to prevent such future tragedies.  Members of the Commission included representatives from the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

To inform its work, the Commission conducted meetings, field visits and listening sessions across the country to provide a forum for receiving direct input from key stakeholders, such as parents, students, teachers, administrators, counselors and psychologists.  The Commission also hosted roundtables with state and local officials, state superintendents and law enforcement leadership.  All this work was guided by the Commission’s mission to promote state and local solutions to school violence.

The Report is divided into three broad categories that are briefly described as follows:

1. Prevent

  • Character Education and Creation of Positive School Climate. The recommendations are centered on ensuring students feel connected to their school environments and combatting bullying and cyber-bullying.
  • Mental Health. The Report focuses on improving access to school-based counseling and support services as well as substance misuse or abuse treatment, including integrated community-based programs.
  • Threat Assessment. The recommendations recognize the critical role of early reporting of suspicious activities or other concerning behaviors, but acknowledge the confusion and angst caused by student privacy laws.
  • Press Coverage. This section describes optimal engagement with the media following an incident, including the recommendation that schools adopt the “No Notoriety Campaign” (e., not using the shooter’s name or photograph and instead focusing on the victims).
  • Violent Entertainment and Rating Systems. The recommendations emphasize the role of parents or guardians and the entertainment industry in strengthening internet safety to curb inappropriate content and ensure rating systems provide parents or guardians with sufficient information regarding entertainment for their children.
  • School Discipline. This section calls for new federal guidance to be issued regarding maintaining order in the classroom and providing best practices for improving school climate and learning outcomes.
  • Law Enforcement. The Report offers a number of recommendations regarding research-based legislative changes.

2.  Protect and Mitigate

  • The Report notes that school resource officers generally are specially trained sworn law enforcement officers, but recognizes that all school personnel play a role in school safety and should be trained in school safety measures.
  • Building and Campus Security. The Report recognizes that every campus and building across the nation is different with different vulnerabilities requiring different protective measures.  The Report advises, however, that effective security plans use a layered approach across all three areas of a building—entry points, the envelope (g., walls, roofs, windows and doors) and the classroom.

3. Respond and Recover | Active Shooter Preparedness.

The Report recognizes that reports prepared in the after-math of a school shooting universally recognize the value of preparing for such  an incident through training, planning and related strategies.

While the Report is a long read, each chapter concludes with a specific list of recommendations for schools to consider as a part of their school safety planning.  The Report recognizes that “no one-size-fits-all solution” exists to preventing tragedies like Parkland, but is a valuable resource as schools continue their efforts to provide for the safety of each individual on their campuses.

For more information, contact Stephanie Donovan at sdonovan@tresslerllp.com.

 

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