DeLauro, Advocates Press For Resources Over Guns

Markeshia Ricks PhotoU.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro is calling on educators, police officers, and student activists to help her stop U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos from allowing federal money to be spent arming teachers.

DeLauro issued that call to action during a press conference at Wilbur Cross High School Monday urging people to contact members of Congress and ask that language be adopted in the final Fiscal 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding measure to make it clear that states can’t use federal funds to put firearms in teachers’ hands.

“There is zero good research on the efficacy of arming teachers as a solution to school shootings,” DeLauro said. “In fact, in June, when Secretary DeVos announced a federal commission on school safety she refused to examine the role of guns with regards to school shootings. How then can she claim that this is a solution?”

DeLauro said using federal education money to purchase guns for school staff and to train teachers to use them would be unprecedented. She said the funding in question is normally used by states to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, reading readiness and for mental health services.

But DeVos has signaled that she might allow state and local school officials to use funding provided by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, to purchase firearms and train school staff, specifically teachers, to use those weapons.

Members of Congress are calling on the Department of Education to issue formal guidance prohibiting equipping and training teachers with handguns. But DeVos has declined to issue such guidance.

“I think it’s outrageous that we would use taxpayer dollars for this dangerous plan,” DeLauro said.

New Haven Public Schools Superintendent Carol Birks said she learned a lot of things before entering her first classroom in 1996 but how to use a gun was not one of them. And though there have been a number of mass shootings since 1996, the basic preparation for teachers hasn’t changed.

“That we’re standing here today talking about arming a teacher with a gun rather than arming them to meet the needs of students ... is just unconscionable,” she said. She also noted that it sends a terrible message to students about whether the people who are responsible for helping them become productive members of society don’t trust and believe in them.

Birks said if the federal government wants to give school district like New Haven more money for social-emotional supports like school psychologists and social workers, to help with STEM and reading, she’ll take it. But schools in Connecticut don’t need money for armed teachers.

David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, pointed out that New Haven city and school officials have actively tried to reduce gun violence.

He noted that New Haven has a gun buy-back program, youth engagement programs, launched a program called Youth Stat to interrupt the cycle of gun violence among teens, and implemented the use of restorative practices. Cicarella said the school district had not lost one student to gun violence since Youth Stat started.

“We have trained professional security officers and SROs equipped to deal with such an unfortunate situation should it ever occur,” Birks said. “I would never want teachers put in a situation to defend themselves in that way.”

New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell echoed Birks’ sentiment suggesting that he wouldn’t want to put his officers in a position to have to distinguish armed teachers from a perpetrator in a school shooting. He said the police department has worked closely with other city officials and Birks on school safety in the last five to seven months. None of what they’ve considered involves arming teachers.

He predicted that school districts that go down the path of arming school staff will have tragic results partly because teachers will not have the 80 hours of training that people in the police academy in Connecticut receive on how to use a weapon and how to keep it in their possession.

“Who’s to say that a student wouldn’t disarm a teacher?” he said. “It’s just not a good idea.”

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut went on to pass some of the toughest gun reform laws in the country instead of arming teachers. And Jeremy Stein, executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, said because of those actions the state now has some of the lowest gun death rates in the country.

“We proved what study after study has proven, that strong gun laws save lives and we did it without arming a single teacher,” he said. “Why did we decide not to arm a single teacher? Because we looked at actual facts and evidence to support that decision. Studies show that guns don’t make us safer. If that were true the U.S. would be the safest place on the planet because we own more guns, by far than any other country in the world.”

DeLauro said the members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation all are against arming teachers but she said DeVos has indicated that she believes it is up to Congress to specifically bar the use of federal education funding for such purposes and that current statute allows flexibility for states.

“We don’t preclude localities from doing what they want to do but these are federal funds,” DeLauro said. “If she doesn’t understand it, and I’ll be flip—sometimes she doesn’t understand it. If she doesn’t understand it, let us make it perfectly clear to Secretary DeVos, what she can and cannot do.

“She threw it in the hand of Congress,” DeLauro added, “well those of us who are elected officials are the Congress. Let’s stop it.”

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posted by: narcan on September 11, 2018  12:38pm

As usual, we get fed disingenuous sound bites by our misrepresentatives.

No research to show that arming teachers works? Perhaps not teachers directly because of the massive “REEEEE” given by those who have a vested interest in seeing a monopoly of arms held by the state.

The DOJ and the FBI do show us plenty of examples where non-law enforcement citizens do have a positive contribution to either stopping or marginalizing an active aggressor threat. This link shows a small sample covering two recent years and shows that non-LE citizens are nearly as likely as police to stop a threat.

What if a student disarms a teacher?? How about we stop leaving violent felons in school and expecting out teachers to work as corrections officers.

If a student is violent enough to worry about them disarming a teacher, they belong in a corrections facility, not a public high school.

Police wouldn’t be able to discern teacher from attacker? A weak and naive assertion, easily addressed with training and procedures. Police are trained and expected to identify and evaluate the threat presented by anyone they may use force against.

If a teacher is willing to undertake a training course comparable to the measly 80 hours received by law enforcement, there is no reason to deny them the right and ability to protect themselves and our children. There is a very high probability they could make a big difference.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on September 11, 2018  3:21pm

In January 2013, Pres. Obama issued executive orders directing fed. agencies to improve knowledge of the causes of firearm violence & what might help prevent it. One of these orders directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with other federal agencies, to begin identifying the most pressing problems in firearm violence research.  This committee studied the issue of DEFENSIVE Gun Use and reported:
•  “Defensive use of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence, although the exact number remains disputed….”
•  “Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million….”
•  “Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was ‘used’ by the crime victim, in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found Consistently LOWER Injury rates among gun-using crime Victims, compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies….” (excerpts from ‘Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence’, emphases mine:  )

posted by: JCFremont on September 12, 2018  10:21am

Face it. The majority of school mass shootings happen in suburban campus type schools where as inner city shootings are more “personal” one on one shootings. If I where Madison or Westport I’d be more concerned than at Hillhouse or Cross.

posted by: Paul53 on September 12, 2018  10:48am

Secretary DeVos IS NOT requiring the purchase of firearms.  She is proposing a change to ALLOW school boards and local government the OPTION to purchase firearms.