White House Releases ‘Immediate Actions to Secure Our Schools’

Education Meeting
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

The White House released four top-line action items for securing America’s schools on Monday after many discussions over how to prevent future school shootings like the one last month in Florida.

The four major action items were: hardening our schools, strengthening background checks and prevention, mental health reform, and investigation through establishment of a Federal Commission on School Safety.

“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe community surrounded by a loving family and to have a future filled with opportunity and with hope,” read a quote from President Donald Trump in a release of the action items.

What followed were a host of bullet points laying out a framework for the four action items:

HARDENING OUR SCHOOLS: President Donald J. Trump is making sure our schools are safe and secure, just like our airports, stadiums, and government buildings.

·        President Trump’s Administration will assist States to train specially qualified school personnel on a voluntary basis.

o   Department of Justice (DOJ) assistance programs will be leveraged to enable schools to partner with State and local law enforcement to provide firearms training for school personnel.

o   The Administration will support the transition of military veterans and retired law enforcement into new careers in education.

·        The Administration will encourage States’ Attorneys General to audit school district compliance with State emergency preparedness activities.

·        Federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, will partner with States and localities to support a public awareness campaign modeled on “See Something, Say Something” to encourage awareness and reporting of suspicious activity.

STRENGTHENING BACKGROUND CHECKS AND PREVENTION: President Trump supports legislation and reforms to strengthen background checks and law enforcement operations.

·        President Trump’s Administration is calling on every State to adopt Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs).

o   The President is directing the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to States, at their request, on establishing and implementing ERPOs.

o   ERPOs allow law enforcement, with approval from a court, to remove firearms from individuals who are a demonstrated threat to themselves or others and temporarily to prevent individuals from purchasing new firearms.

o   ERPOs should be carefully tailored to ensure the due process rights of law-abiding citizens are protected.

·        President Trump supports improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The President supports the legislative framework introduced by Senators Cornyn and Murphy that will help improve the accuracy and effectiveness of NICS.

o   The Cornyn-Murphy bill will hold Federal agencies more accountable for reporting information to NICS and will incentivize States to improve their reporting to the system.

·        The President supports the framework of the STOP School Violence Act, which provides for State-based grants to implement evidence-based violence prevention programs.

o   Grants will provide States with funds for training, technology, and technical assistance to help schools identify and prevent violent acts.

·        The Administration requests that Congress provide funding in 2018 to jump start implementation of this evidence-based program in middle and high schools nationwide.

·        The President’s Administration will audit and make accountability improvements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) tip line, and will promote its use.

·        DOJ will provide emergency and crisis training for local law enforcement.

MENTAL HEALTH REFORM: President Trump is proposing an expansion and reform of mental health programs, including those that help identify and treat individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others.

·        The President is proposing increased integration of mental health, primary care, and family services, as well as support for programs that utilize court-ordered treatment.

·        The President is calling for a review of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other statutory and regulatory privacy protections.

o   Reviews will determine if any changes or clarifications are needed to improve coordination between mental health and other healthcare professionals, school officials, and law enforcement personnel.

INVESTIGATION: In addition to these immediate actions, President Trump is establishing a Federal Commission on School Safety chaired by Secretary Betsy DeVos and will recommend policy and funding proposals for school violence prevention. 

·        President Trump’s Administration will establish a Federal commission, chaired by Secretary DeVos, to address school safety and the culture of violence.

·        While the Administration is taking immediate action on school safety, the Federal commission will develop a process to evaluate and make recommendations on school safety.

·        The commission will study and make recommendations on the following areas of focus:

o   Age restrictions for certain firearm purchases.

o   Existing entertainment rating systems and youth consumption of violent entertainment.

o   Strategies to advance the science and practice of character development in youth and a culture of connectedness.

o   Effects of press coverage of mass shootings.

o   Repeal of the Obama Administration’s “Rethink School Discipline” policies.

o   Best practices for school buildings and campus security from Federal Government components, including the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and also from other State, local, and private sector sources.

o   A plan for integration and coordination of Federal resources focused on prevention and mitigation of active shooter incidents at schools.

o   Opportunities to improve access to mental health treatment, including through efforts that raise awareness about mental illness and the effectiveness of treatment, reduce barriers to the recruitment of mental health professionals, and provide training related to violence prevention.

o   Best practices for school-based threat assessment and violence prevention strategies.

o   The effectiveness and appropriateness of psychotropic medication for treatment of troubled youth.

o   Ensuring that findings are sufficiently supported by existing and additional Federal, State, and local funding sources.

The White House release was distributed in the course of Monday’s White House press briefing during which press secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly informed the press that the list detailed actions that the President sees as possible to take immediate action on, not an all-inclusive list of items the President considers priorities. She repeatedly told the press that the President maintains other policy positions that he has espoused in the course of weeks of discussions on school safety, but some of his positions do not have the broad-based support needed in congress to get immediately passed into law.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

.