The Arkansas school safety commission heard after the fact yesterday about ideas to make schools safer that don’t put more guns at the top of the list of solutions. This meeting coincided with news of how the federal Education Department is promoting false information about gun violence in schools and facts on arming schools rather than meeting needs of students.
The school safety commission, loaded by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to produce his desired more-guns approach to safety, has already said the aim of the state should be to have armed officers in every school. Failing that, the idea is to put guns in the hands of “trained” staff members, notwithstanding ample research that shows even trained, full-time law enforcement officers aren’t wholly reliable in armed conflicts.
Yesterday, Moms Demand Gun Sense in America brought their message about stronger gun safety laws (safe storage laws would be particularly valuable given the carnage from accidental shootings in homes). A state Health Department doctor also talked of the need for early help for children from poor and broken homes who are living with mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence and other “toxic” stress.
Enter now some reporting from the Washington Post, which notes NPR has uncovered the Education Department’s exaggeration of, and refusal to correct, numbers on gun incidents in schools.
This spring the U.S. Education Department reported that in the 2015-2016 school year, “nearly 240 schools … reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.” The number is far higher than most other estimates.
But NPR reached out to every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months and found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened. Child Trends, a nonpartisan nonprofit research organization, assisted NPR in analyzing data from the government’s Civil Rights Data Collection.
We were able to confirm just 11 reported incidents, either directly with schools or through media reports.
11 gun incidents in 96,000 schools and Arkansas’s answer is to arm teachers in every school.
The ACLU says this is part of the push to “militarize” schools and ignore the growing inequality gap in education, coincidentally occurring as the public schools of American became majority black and brown. Coincidental, too, are cuts in federal school spending, reductions that disproportionately burden already-impoverished and unequal schools.
Does a majority-minority school population explain why some are talking more about putting more guns in school rather than about the disproportionate suspension rate of students of color? About disproportionate punishment of disabled students? About greater spending on cops than on social workers and counselors?
Nationally, schools reported more than 27,000 sworn law enforcement officers compared with just 23,000 social workers.
More than 36 million students were enrolled in 55,000 schools that did not meet the American School Counselors Association’s recommended 250:1 student-to-counselor ratio.
Nationally, there was a student-to-counselor ratio of 444:1, suggesting that counselors are seriously overworked with a student caseload that is 78 percent greater than what is recommended by professionals.
The article also notes that “serious” incidents reported by schools rarely involve weapons. A bloody fistfight is no small thing. But they are not a new feature of adolescent behavior. Might it be that these things seem more serious depending on the color of the combatants?
Guns or counselors? Guns or early childhood intervention? Taking bets on which the Arkansas legislature will prefer.