What Can Be Done About School Shootings?


A May 13 panel of a virtual conference on school safety organized by the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance was titled “What can be done about school shootings?”


A third panelist, Dewey Cornell, a professor at the University of Virginia, agreed. “We’re spending far too much on security measures and not enough on school counselors, approaches that create a softer, more welcoming environment in our schools, not a harder one. And the research bears it out. That the schools with the target hardening measures are not statistically safer and the students and teachers don’t feel safer either.”

In May of 2019, I reported from New Hampshire for Education Next that, “School shootings are shaping up as a big issue on the Democratic campaign trail.”

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who were then rival candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, were both emphasizing the issue. “I’m the only guy ever, nationally, to beat the NRA,” Biden said while campaigning in Nashua, N.H. “Look, the Second Amendment exists, but it doesn’t say you can own any weapon you want,” Biden said. “If you own a gun, put a damn trigger lock on it. Put it in a case.”

In May 2019, Biden called the gun issue his “single biggest priority in terms of dealing with the concerns of young people right now.”

Talking to reporters after the event, Biden said he was open to a “federal gun licensing system” or weapons that required their owner’s fingerprint to unlock. He said the biggest political obstacle to gun control law wasn’t gun owners or the National Rifle Assocation but “gun manufacturers. That’s where the money is.”

Also in May 2019, Harris said as president, she’d give Congress 100 days to act, but if it didn’t she’d take executive action to “ban the import of assault weapons into our country.”

An article in the Spring 2019 issue of Education Next (“Protecting Students from Gun Violence”), said that “target hardening” actions might contribute to student anxiety. “Some students might feel safer and calmer in hardened environments, but it is equally plausible that intensive security procedures send the message that schools are unsafe, fearful places, thus adding an element of stress to the learning environment,” the article said.


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