More than 30 congressional Democrats on Tuesday called on federal agencies to address what they see as “misguided” school safety policies aimed at preventing school shootings.
In a letter to the Department of Justice, Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services, House lawmakers said the government has failed to protect school children and families at following at least 30 school shootings this year, including May’s tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
“Schools are meant to be havens for children, parents, educators, caretakers and the cafeteria
staff and communities. But for far too many people, they are not,” the letter read. “We are deeply troubled by the failure to keep our children and our communities safe, the foundation on which any country rests. It is time to undo the harm and trauma that the Uvalde massacre left in our schools and in our children.
The letter was signed by prominent House Democrats, including Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY ) and Andre Carson ( Indiana.).
House lawmakers said federal, state and local agencies have failed the American public by focusing school safety prevention efforts on hiring, retaining and defunding school resource officers, an approach that they called ‘counterproductive and harmful’.
Representatives highlighted the Community Oriented Policing in Schools (COPS) program, which has primarily supported community policing initiatives since 1995, but has also led to the hiring of 590 School Resource Officers (SROs) in 289 communities. For fiscal year 2023, the Biden administration has requested increased funds for the PSC budget.
Democrats have argued that schools with armed ORS have higher death rates and also more expulsions and arrests of young people. They also pointed to the more than 300 officers who responded to the Uvalde school shooting, but did not act for over an hour as a gunman locked himself in two rooms of adjacent classrooms with children still alive.
“Armed officers in schools are, at best, an inadequate response to the violence that has already
happened, not a prevention strategy,” the lawmakers wrote.
Since the 1999 Columbine shootings, school shootings have soared, reaching an all-time high of 251 last year, according to the K-12 School Shootings Database. Despite the increase, major gun control legislation has been stalled until the first major federal gun control bill in decades passed this year after the Uvalde shooting. .
Over the years, methods of preventing school shootings have largely focused on making schools safer, including security technologies and emergency plans.
Gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety says one of the most effective ways to prevent school shootings is to address violence in its early stages and block access to guns.
On Tuesday, lawmakers proposed more programs to support students, including mental health resources, but asked federal agencies to conduct a review of what is most appropriate.
“We urge you to break this cycle of violence and recommit to public health and safety strategies that will ensure our schools are safe for all students,” they wrote in the letter. “This requires thinking holistically about violence in our schools to ensure that we prevent violence – by addressing the root causes of conflict that can escalate into violence – and not simply addressing its impact.”