PTA criticizes Obama’s call for more armed school guards

The National Parent Teachers Organization said today it was pleased with many of President Obama’s new proposals to improve school security but that his call for more armed guards at schools “comes as a disappointment.”

Obama spelled out a series of steps to help make schools safer for students, including hiring as many as 1,000 more school resource officers and counselors.

School resource officers are specially trained law enforcement officers who are assigned to school campuses. They can perform some functions such as mentoring and advising, which are more typically conducted by guidance counselors and social workers, but they carry weapons and have authority to arrest students.There has been a big increase in the number of school resource officers in the past 15 years, a jump connected to the growth of “zero tolerance” disciplinary codes in schools. The Justice Department says the number of these officers jumped 38 percent from 1997 to 2007.

There is mixed opinion about whether the guards actually make kids safer. Gun rights advocates say they do, while gun control advocates say they don’t. The nonprofit Justice Policy Institute says research shows no clear correlation between police in schools and student safety. According to the institute,  at their most prevalent, there were 3,360 students per school resource officer and 73 student-reported crimes in 2003; while in 2007 there were fewer school resource officers and the lowest levels of student reported incidents of theft and violence since 1997. At the same time, there were slightly more students per school resource officer in 2000, but a slightly lower rate of student reported incidents of theft and violence.

The PTA, in a statement, said it was pleased with some of Obama’s proposals, including his call for universal background checks for firearms sales and possession and a ban on military-style assault rifles. But they do not believe that armed guards make schools safer. Here’s the full PTA statement from National PTA President Betsy Landers:

National PTA applauds President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for the robust plan they put forth today addressing gun violence prevention.  For decades, National PTA has called on parents, educators, community members, and government to prioritize this issue to ensure a safe learning environment for all students.

 

National PTA agrees with the Administration in that we need to offer safety training and comprehensive mental health services as well as to implement:

 

  • Universal background checks for the sale and possession of firearms;
  • A ban on non-sporting ammunition in high-capacity magazines; and
  • The reenactment and expansion of an effective federal ban on the sale and possession of military-style assault weapons.

As the President conveyed in his remarks, our number one task, as a nation, is to protect our children. To achieve this, National PTA believes schools also must be completely gun-free.  The Administration’s recommendation to expand the school resource officer program therefore comes as a disappointment.

 

Despite this, National PTA praises the Administration’s swift action and looks forward to the implementation of these new proposals and executive actions as well as additional bipartisan legislative solutions.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · January 16, 2013