Donate today!
view counter

Obama proposes host of school safety, mental health programs to curb violence

By the Notebook on Jan 17, 2013 01:43 PM
Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, left, hugs 8-year-old letter writer Grant Fritz during a news conference on proposals to reduce gun violence on Wednesday at the White House.

This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared in Education Week.

by Alyson Klein

President Barack Obama has put school safety and expanded mental health services at the center of a plan aimed at preventing tragedies similar to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month.

The plan is informed by the recommendations from an anti-violence task force led by Vice President Joe Biden. The most high-profile portions of the proposals, unveiled Wednesday at the White House, would require background checks for all gun sales, including weapons purchased at gun shows, and ban military-style assault weapons, proposals that are likely to be a tough sell among federal lawmakers.

But Obama said he would do what he could to push the proposals. "While there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there's even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try," he said in detailing the package.

His proposals includes a list of ideas aimed directly at helping schools prepare for -- and respond to -- threats similar to the attack by the gunman at Sandy Hook, as well as myriad proposals aimed at bolstering mental health services, including new money for school counselors and training to help teachers identify students with mental illness early and get them the help they need. The plan calls for new federal investments in school safety and mental health counseling -- two areas the Obama administration sought to trim in recent budget requests.

Much of Obama's to-do list includes items that will require congressional funding and approval, but there are also a number of items that can be put in place right away, under executive order, without any further action from a Congress that has been paralyzed by partisan gridlock. For instance, the administration plans to immediately bolster incentives for schools to hire resource officers -- police officers who can respond to threats immediately within a school -- by giving priority to applicants who plan to use the U.S. Department of Justice's COPs grants for this purpose.

And the U.S. Department of Education, working with the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, will also develop -- by May of this year -- model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education.

As part of that effort, the agencies will outline best practices when it comes to training teachers and students on the plans -- something the federal government has identified as a gap when it comes to school safety procedures. While the students and teachers at Sandy Hook had practiced safety procedures just a month before the school was attacked by a lone gunman, that is not the norm, according to a 2010 survey cited by the White House. The survey found that while 84 percent of schools have a written plan in place to be used in the event of a shooting, only 52 percent of schools had actually drilled their students on the plan in the past year.


Obama has also charged U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius with launching a "national dialogue" on mental health issues. Many of the remaining executive actions deal specifically with gun violence, including making it easier for federal agencies to provide information needed for background checks.

In addition to the gun proposals which would require congressional action, the administration is also calling on Congress -- where funding for new initiatives has been scarce -- for new financing for programs involving mental health services, emergency planning, and schools.

For instance, the administration is aiming to create a new, $150 million Comprehensive School Safety Program intended to help school districts and law enforcement agencies hire 1,000 additional staff members, including school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors. The money could also be used to purchase or upgrade school safety equipment and train teams of staff members to assist students in a crisis. Under the proposal, the Justice Department would also distribute information to schools on how best to make use of school resource officers, including how they should work with different age groups of students.

And the administration wants lawmakers to allocate $30 million in one-time grants to states to help school districts develop and implement emergency management plans. In exchange, schools that receive federal funding for school safety would be required to have up-to-date emergency plans in place for all schools.

The administration is also seeking $50 million in new funding to help 8,000 schools put in place new strategies to improve school climate and discipline, such as consistent rules and rewards for good behavior. And the Education Department would help schools share best practices when it comes to school climate.

The legislative package also includes a package of proposals aimed at mental health, including a new initiative for ensuring that young people have access to such services. The initiative would be known as Project AWARE, which stands for Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education. It would reach an estimated 750,000 young people, according to the administration, which notes that the massacre at Newtown and similar rampages in Aurora, Colo.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., were all perpetrated by young adults.

The package would include:

  • $15 million to help teachers and other adults who work with youth provide "Mental Health First Aid," enabling them to identify students with mental health problems early and steer them toward treatment;

  • $40 million to help districts work with law enforcement and other local agencies to coordinate services for students who demonstrate need;

  • $25 million to finance new, state-based strategies to identify individuals ages 16 to 25 with mental health and substance abuse issues and get them the care they need;

  • $25 million to help schools offer mental health services aimed at combating trauma, anxiety, and bolstering conflict resolution; and

  • $50 million in new money to train social workers, counselors, psychologists and other mental health professionals. The money would provide stipends and tuition reimbursement for more than 5,000 new mental health professionals that want to work with young people, including in school settings.

It's unclear how these proposals will go over with Congress, particularly among House Republicans who have been reluctant to add to the government's bottom line.

"The president and vice president have proposed a broad set of recommendations, which I plan to review carefully," said U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee in a statement. And he said his committee would convene a hearing on school safety.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who oversees the panels that deal with K-12 policy and funding, said in a statement that he is "encouraged that this proposal recognizes that a comprehensive approach is needed -- one that focuses on ensuring that our students get the services they need and addresses mental health services in our country with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention."

It's important to note that the administration hasn't always been supportive of federal funding targeted directed exclusively at hiring school counselors and school resources officers. Obama has proposed eliminating the $53 million Elementary and Secondary Counseling Program, in favor of a broader funding stream that schools could use for counselors, but also for activities aimed at improving school climate and safety.

The administration also proposed elimination of nearly $300 million aimed at school safety, known as the state Safe and Drug Free Schools grants, which helped schools pay for everything from metal detectors and security guards to drug-abuse prevention and conflict resolution training. After the program was scrapped, a smaller portion of money -- currently nearly $65 million -- was kept in place for national activities on school safety, but Obama has also sought to combine that with a broader funding stream aimed at school climate.

Want to watch the press conference for yourself? Take a look here:

Photo credit (second photo): President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, pauses as he talks about proposals to reduce gun violence during an appearance Wednesday at the White House. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Click Here
view counter

Comments (7)

Submitted by Janice Crump (not verified) on January 24, 2013 10:56 pm
Dear President Obama, In the interest of exploring a new employment opportunity for Internship as a Mental Health Therapist. I would expand my knowledge and proven abilities working for your organization. With a past history working with coworkers in this particular area wearing many hats. I assume any responsibility as assigned with the intelligence to work efficiently and effectively at any institution. Working on a Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling, I would definitely be an asset to your institution. I give my employer 100%, I also offer good moral and ethical values to your organization, that is substantial to working with multiple skills recognizing the importance of assisting organizations to achieve their goals. I offer a wide range of strong communication, implementation, planning, computer knowledge, development and theraputic skills. Through my previous duties and ongoing education, in Mental Health Counseling. I have gained a solid foundation that assures assessment, referrals, diagnosing clients, understanding their needs. My resume speaks for itself, my goal is to become a Mental Health Therapist. I am skilled to track information in daily operations and have demonstrated the ability to handle multiple tasking, even when working under extreme pressure or against deadlines. While I work well independently, I also work well as a team player, understanding the importance of doing my part with a team. In short, I welcome new challenges and believe I would prove to be a productive addition to your organization. Thank you, Janice Crump Mental Health Student
Submitted by David Miles (not verified) on June 4, 2013 7:01 am
President Barack Obama offers several health care reform programs to repair the current health care condition of America; therefore in every sector we have found high level of health care service for example Affordable Healthcare Act; Obamacare and many others. So in order to save the issues of mental health in school Obama proposes various safety programs that should not be lead to violence problem.
Submitted by HannahLinda (not verified) on July 12, 2013 4:07 pm
In order to control human health falls most of the health organizations are used to promote the health providing strategies and opportunities that deliver positive health care results to the people. So we are estimating a healthy atmosphere which helps to reduce the affects of various kind of pollution and develop the strategies of public health. power precision
Submitted by HannahLinda (not verified) on July 15, 2013 5:41 pm
Access to health care varies across countries, teams and people, for the most part influenced by social and economic conditions similarly because the health policies in situ. Countries and Muscle zx90 jurisdictions have totally different policies and plans in regard to the private and population-based health care goals among their societies. Thank you
Submitted by wigerjames (not verified) on July 17, 2013 6:35 am Safety Media provide over 50 top quality health and safety e-learning courses.
Submitted by HannahLinda (not verified) on July 17, 2013 8:24 pm
This may be one reason such a lot of adults suffer with weight problems, and appear to be fastened into associate degree emotional feeding pattern which will sabotage makes an attempt.
Submitted by HannahLinda (not verified) on July 26, 2013 2:37 pm
In the interest of exploring a brand new employment chance for place as a psychological state healer. i'd expand my data and verified skills operating for your organization. With a past history operating with coworkers during this specific space carrying several hats. I assume any responsibility as allotted with the intelligence to figure with efficiency and effectively at any establishment. functioning on a Masters Degree in psychological state counsel, i'd undoubtedly be AN plus to your establishment. I provide my leader 100 percent, I additionally provide smart ethical and moral values to your organization, that's substantial to operating with multiple skills recognizing the importance of aiding organizations to realize their goals.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. We reserve the right to delete or remove any material deemed to be in violation of this rule, and to ban anyone who violates this rule. Please see our "Terms of Usage" for more detail concerning your obligations as a user of this service. Reader comments are limited to 500 words. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

Follow Us On

Read the latest print issue

Philly Ed Feed

Recent Comments


Public School Notebook

699 Ranstead St.
Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 839-0082
Fax: (215) 238-2300

© Copyright 2013 The Philadelphia Public School Notebook. All Rights Reserved.
Terms of Usage and Privacy Policy