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Rethinking School Safety: Schools and Communities Working Together

NASP Congressional Briefing, December 11, 2013

On December 11, 2013 NASP hosted a Congressional briefing in cooperation with U.S. Representative David Loebsack (IA-2) on how schools and communities can work together to improve school safety.  

Briefing panelists Mo Canady, Christina Conolly-Wilson, Cathy Paine, Tom Demaria and David Osher with NASP Director of Government Relations Kelly Vaillancourt (second from left) and NASP President Sally Baas (third from left).

Expert panelists discussed the need to ensure that students feel both physically and psychologically safe in our schools.  Panelists emphasized the need to address student mental health  in conjunction with reasonable security measures (e.g locked doors, visitor entrance procedures). Collectively, our panelists stressed that effective school safety initiatives must address prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery and that collaboration with community partners is essential. Every panelist emphasized the importance of consistent and sustained funding at the federal, state, and local level to ensure that every school is a safe school. 

Effective School Safety:

  • Is critical to student learning. Effective school safety programming, such as bullying prevention and positive dicipline efforts, are equally as important as high quality instruction. 
  • Must address both physical and psychological safety.  Excessive building security measures (armed guards, metal detectors) can decrease students' sense of safety.  We must combine reasonable security measures with initiatives to foster a positive school climate and student sense of belonging.
  • Must ensure student access to mental health supports.  Supporting student mental health can lead to improvements in behavior, school climate, and academic success, all of which contribute to school safety. 
  • Cannot be achieved without an adequate number of school-employed mental health professionals. School counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers have specialized training to provide a range of services that improve school safety, including mental health services.  These professionals are also able to help coordinate with community partners when the need arises. 

Panelists

  • Cathy Kennedy-Paine, School Psychologist, Chair of the NASP National Emergency Assistance Team (NEAT)
  • Christina Conolly-Wilson, Psy.D, NCSP, Director of Crisis Intervention and Safety, Waukegan Public Schools, IL
  • Mo Canady, Executive Director of the National Association of School Resource Officers
  • Thomas Demaria, PhD, Director of Psychological Services Center at Long Island University
  • David Osher, Ph.D, Vice President and Codirector, Human and Social Development Program; AIR Institute Fellow
  • Nelba Márquez-Greene, LMFT, Mental Health and Relational Wellness Director for Sandy Hook Promise and Founder, Ana Grace Project (by video)