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Entries in Schools (5)

Thursday
Dec202012

Sen. Boxer Proposes Using National Guard Troops in Schools

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., proposed using National Guard troops to help make schools across the nation safer and avoid another shooting like last week at Sandy Hook.
 
“Three hundred million weapons are out there, nothing I know is going to change that. And in the meantime we better -- we darn better -- keep our kids safe,” Sen. Boxer said at a press conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “And if we avoid looking at that question I think we are failing.”
 
The Save Our Schools Act (SOS) would allow the federal government to reimburse Governors who want to use National Guard troops in schools and is modeled after the National Guard program that allows governors to use the Guard to assist with law enforcement efforts related to drug interdiction activities.
 
“So we take a successful program and we say we’re going to add a new purpose,” Boxer said. "National guard troops could be used to help support local law enforcement agencies in protecting our children at schools.”
 
Under the new program, Guard troops could work with law enforcement agencies to ensure schools are safe. This could take the form of additional guards at school, strengthening the perimeter security of the school or relieving local law enforcement officials who have desk jobs.
 
“I feel very strongly that this is an appropriate use of our national guard,” Boxer said Wednesday. “The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary is a reminder that we have failed our children.”
 
Governors already have the power to use the Guard on their own currently, but they’d have to pay for it under already-squeezed state budgets.  Under Boxer’s legislation governors could apply and have 100 percent of their plan paid though by federal funds already set up by the drug interdiction program.
 
Boxer said she has not had a conversation with any other senators about this proposal but will be working to get support before the next session of Congress.  She plans to speak with Vice President Biden, who will lead the charge on this issue, about her proposal soon.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec182012

Michigan Veto Preserves 'Gun Free' Schools

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LANSING, Mich.) -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have invalidated "gun free" zones like those at schools and churches.

The law was passed by the state legislature in Michigan the day before the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting. It would have allowed individual schools to ban guns on their property, but Snyder vetoed it because of concerns that public schools did not retain enough power to keep guns off their campuses.

"While we must vigilantly protect the rights of law-abiding firearm owners, we also must ensure the right of designated public entities to exercise their best discretion in matters of safety and security," he said. "These public venues need clear legal authority to ban firearms on their premises if they see fit to do so."

But some state laws already permit individual school districts to allow concealed weapons on campus. The thinking is that law-abiding citizens with concealed weapons can deter and react to the person bent on destruction.

Four days after the deadly school shooting in Connecticut that left 20 children and six staff members dead, two Republican governors have spoken favorably of considering proposals to put guns in the hands of teachers and administrators.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry expressed support for allowing school districts to determine whether teachers can carry concealed handguns in class, which at least one Texas district already permits.

"In the state of Texas, if you go through the process, have been trained, and you are a handgun-licensed individual, you should be able to carry a gun anywhere in the state," Perry told the NE Tarrant County Tea Party Monday evening, according to ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth.

This is not the majority opinion in the United States, however. An ABC News-Washington Post poll conducted in the aftermath of the Friday shooting found that 54 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control laws in general and 59 percent support a ban specifically on high-capacity ammunition clips such as the ones used in Newtown.

But Perry and McDonnell are far from alone.

One Texas school district, the Harrold Independent School District, adopted a policy in 2007 allowing teachers to carry concealed handguns in schools. Almost 200 miles northwest of Dallas, Harrold is a small school district near the Texas-Oklahoma border that teaches 100 children K-12.

"We're a rural community," Harrold superintendent David Thweatt told ABC News in a phone interview. "We're in a county about a little smaller than the state of Rhode of island, so we're 30 minutes from law enforcement. Thirty minutes is an extremely long length of time."

Harrold implemented the "Guardian Plan," the district's policy that allows teachers to carry concealed handguns, after the 2006 shooting at an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pa., which killed five young girls, and the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech that led to the death of 32 students and teachers.

"We were just concerned with trying to protect our kids, and there were enough shootings, as far as I was concerned, to develop this plan," Thweatt said.

In Perry's state of Texas, lawmakers in 2011 narrowly failed to pass legislation allowing permitted handgun owners to carry concealed guns on college campuses. But they are allowed in the statehouse.

Five states have provisions allowing concealed weapons on college campuses and 23 others allow individual schools to allow guns on college campuses.

Some proponents wouldn't stop at college campuses.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, a gun rights advocate who represents an east Texas district, said he wished that the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School had been armed when Adam Lanza opened fire on the young school children and teachers Friday morning.

"I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn't have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands. But she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said on Fox News Sunday.

In Texas' Harrold Independent School District, The Guardian Plan consists of four components. An employee must obtain a concealed handgun license from the state of Texas, and the school board would approve them individually to carry in schools. The teachers must then go through extended training, and the ammunition used in the guns must be frangible, meaning it is made of small particles and breaks apart when it hits a hard object like wood or a plastic wall.

Harrold employs about 25 teachers and personnel, but superintendent Thweatt would not specify how many employees or which ones carry concealed weapons in the schools. Thweatt said many parents in his district support the concealed-handgun policy for teachers.

"Parents often cite that the reason they're bringing their kids to our schools is because we have better security for them," he said. "When you send your kids to school, you want them to come home to you."

In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Thweatt says more school districts in Texas have reached out to him for information about Harrold's concealed-handgun policy.

The Texas penal code prohibits weapons from being used in schools or educational institutions "unless, pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the institution," language allows for school boards to determine whether teachers can carry handguns in schools.

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said the agency has not heard of other school districts' wishing to implement the same policy as Harrold but noted that the districts would not be required to report it to the agency.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec052012

Which Congressman Is Blocking Bill That Would Protect Kids with Autism?

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Legislation aimed at protecting children with autism and other disabilities from being injured in school has stalled in the House of Representatives at the hands of a single member who objects to federal intervention.

Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kline, who chairs the House's education committee, has frozen action in the House on a proposal to institute national standards for how teachers and school staff can safely restrain students.

"Chairman Kline believes state officials and school leaders are best equipped to determine appropriate policies that should be in place to protect students and to hold those who violate those policies accountable," said Alexandra Haynes Sollberger, the communications director for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. "For this reason, the committee has not scheduled any action on seclusion and restraint legislation at this time."

Legislation was first submitted three years ago in response to rising concerns about the methods some teachers were using to restrain students who were misbehaving or out of control. Thousands of children have been injured and dozens killed in recent years after being restrained, an ABC News investigation has found.

The most recent death occurred in New York, when a special needs student suffered cardiac arrest as a group of staff at the Leake & Watts school pinned him face down on the ground, allegedly because he refused to get off of the basketball court.

A spokesperson for the school said that "extensive third-party independent reviews by the police, the District Attorney's office, the medical examiner and state officials support Leake & Watts' own internal investigation and this conclusion: Corey's death was a terrible tragedy." An autopsy ruled Corey's death an accident, saying he suffered "cardiac arrest during an excited state while being subdued."

There have been a range of other techniques employed that have raised objections from parents, ABC News found. An elementary school student in Kentucky was stuffed in a therapy bag the size of a duffle bag when he was acting up. Students in Arizona and Washington state reportedly were being held for long periods of time in so-called "scream rooms," padded closets designed to keep children safe while they calmed down. In Mississippi, the Southern Poverty Law Center intervened with a lawsuit when students reported being handcuffed to a school staircase railing.

"Children have died, suffered broken bones and other injuries, and been traumatized," said James Butler, Legislative Affairs Committee Chair for the Autism National Committee (AutCom). "But fewer than one-third of states limit restraint and seclusion to emergencies involving physical danger."

 

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said he first introduced the legislation because states that were instituting any rules at all were providing an inconsistent patchwork of rules that left tens of thousands of schoolchildren unprotected.

"We see in some states where they're starting to come to grips with this," Miller said. "But it's a very mixed bag across the nation."

His legislation initially won passage in the House in 2010 with bipartisan support, but the bill stalled that year in the Senate. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, reintroduced the bill this year. Both the Senate bill and Miller's companion bill in the House have failed to move.

Objections to the measure have come in part from lawmakers like Kline who believe these matters are best left for states to decide.

"States and school districts have a shared responsibility to ensure students attend a safe learning environment," said Sollberger, Kline's spokeswoman.

Miller expressed dismay Wednesday about Kline's decision to stymie the bill.

"There is no excuse for inaction," Miller said. "In the past, this Committee has worked tirelessly on behalf of children's safety. Our investigations made clear that a federal law is necessary to protect all children across the country and ensure that children's safety does not depend on the state in which they live. I hope that we can put aside politics and ideologies, tackle these issues together, and do what we can legislatively to save children from abuse."

From outside Capitol Hill, the primary opposition to the bill has come from school administrators, who would like to see the school officials themselves retain control over discipline in their classrooms. Daniel A. Domenech, who heads the American Association of School Administrators, says the practice of restraining an out-of-control student is an unwelcome but essential part of keeping teachers and other students safe. And the vast majority of the time, he said, school officials are able to subdue a child without harm coming to anyone.

Domenech told ABC News his chief concern with the legislation was that it could put teachers in a bind – if a child poses a threat to others and they step in, would they have to risk violating a federal law to do so?

"What do they do when the child begins to hurt themselves or when they attack another child?" he asked. "Do they just stand there and watch? They don't. They intervene."

Domenech, who once oversaw the schools in Fairfax County, Va., said he agrees that more training is needed to prevent teachers from restraining children in ways that are dangerous. He winced when told of schools that stuffed children in sacks or used duct tape to restrain them.

"Restraint is something that we won't see or don't want to see put in place unless it is absolutely necessary," Domenech said. "But the problem is the training. The problem is the training."

Officials in Miller's office said they have attempted to address Domenech's concerns with language in the bill that makes it clear that teachers can intervene to protect other children from harm. But, they said, school administrators have continued to push against the measure, even as the Obama administration has begun to intervene.

This year, amidst mounting evidence that the improper use of restraint was leading to injuries and deaths, the U.S. Department of Education for the first time released its own guidelines for the use of restraint in American schools. The report concludes that there is "no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective."

"The principles make clear that restraint or seclusion should never be used except in situations where a child's behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others," wrote Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education. "And restraint and seclusion should be avoided to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of students and staff."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May232012

Romney Unveils Education Plan

Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Mitt Romney unveiled his education plan on Wednesday, vowing to make sweeping changes to the public education system by expanding school choice by assigning federal money to low-income students who will then, in turn, be able to take that money to a school of his or her choice or use it for tutoring or digital education.

“I’ll be blunt,” Romney said during an address to The Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Summit. “I don’t like the direction of American education, and as president, I will do everything in my power to get education on track for the kids in this great land.”

Romney, who said students in the U.S. are receiving a “third-world education” where “minority children suffer the most,” outlined Wednesday for the first time the specific steps he would take toward education reform.

“As president, I will pursue a very bold policy of change that will restore the promise of our nation’s education system,” he said, standing in front of a banner that read, “A Chance for Every Child.” “For the first time in history, federal education funds will be linked to the student, so that parents can send their child to any public or charter school of their choice.”

Romney outlined that states would have to provide students with “ample school choice” and that digital schools could not be barred from receiving the federal funds.  Students would be able to take the money to a school outside his or her district, but schools would have to be empowered to address capacity issues should they arise.

Mentioning the Bush-area education plan known as “No Child Left Behind,” Romney said that the legislation “helped our nation take a giant step forward in bridging the information gap,” but was “not without its weaknesses.”

“As president, I am going to break the political logjam that has prevented successful reform of the law,” said Romney.   “I’ll reduce federal micro management, but I’m going to redouble efforts to ensure that schools are held responsible for results.”

Romney’s plans will shift the responsibility of school report cards from the federal level to the state level in an attempt to give parents a clearer understanding of their child’s education. Additionally, Romney said he would consolidate the more than 80 federal programs that focus on teacher evaluation and provide incentives to states that “regularly evaluate” their teachers and reward those who are the most successful in the classroom.

“As president, I will make it my goal to ensure that every classroom has a quality teacher,” Romney said.

In a briefing call prior to Romney’s speech, the campaign’s domestic policy director, Oren Cass, said that the education plan would not involve any new spending.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep282011

Obama to Students: Study Hard for the Good of the Country

President Barack Obama shakes hands with people gathered at Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver, Colo., Sept. 27, 2011. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza (WASHINGTON) -- In his annual back-to-school address, President Obama urged students to study hard and earn a higher degree because the country is counting on them for America’s future prosperity.

“I don't want to be another adult who stands up and lectures you like you're just kids, because you're not just kids. You're this country's future.  You're young leaders.  And whether we fall behind or race ahead as a nation is going to depend in large part on you,” Obama told students at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C.

In a subtle pitch for his $447 billion jobs bill, the president also said that he’s “taking every step we can to ensure that you're getting an educational system that is worthy of your potential.”

“We're working to make sure that you have the most up-to-date schools with the latest tools of learning.  We're making sure that this country's colleges and universities are affordable and accessible to you.  We're working to get the best teachers into the classroom as well, so they can help you prepare for college and a future career,” he said.

Promoting the American Jobs Act across the county in recent weeks, the president has argued that increased spending on schools will help increase America’s global competitiveness. Last week Obama also offered states waivers from requirements of “No Child Left Behind” in exchange for enacting certain reforms, including adopting college and career-ready standards and creating an accountability system that reports the lowest-performing schools and the largest achievement gaps.

Noting that the U.S. is now ranked 16th globally in the proportion of young people with a college degree, the president encouraged students to pursue a higher degree so that “you guys will have a brighter future and so will America.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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