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School security in Senate gun safety agreement, what should and shouldn’t be included?

One of the nine Senate bipartisan gun control proposals addresses safety measures in and around schools, training, and supporting school violence prevention efforts.

HARTFORD, Conn. — A bipartisan gun control agreement in the Senate lays out nine proposals that address school safety, gun access, and mental health.

Released Sunday by 20 Republican and Democratic Senators, one of the proposals would provide funding for school safety resources. “Invests in programs to help institute safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools, support school violence prevention efforts and provide training to school personnel and students,” it reads.

What that would actually look like is still unknown as Senators write up the specifics. Many here in Connecticut have ideas for what it should and shouldn’t include.

RELATED: Bipartisan gun control proposal could benefit other states more than Connecticut

Kate Dias is the president of the Connecticut Education Association, which has more than 43,000 members. She says it’s good to see the agreement address both school safety and proactive gun access.

“We can’t do enough to keep our school safe so I think spending money in those areas to ensure that our schools have the best safety precautions in place as humanly possible, that’s good expenditures,” the Manchester high school math teacher said. “I think any money we invest on safety is money well spent.”

One area she pointed out for funding is audits so schools can look at their current security measures and ways to improve them. 

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Jeremy Stein with Connecticut Against Gun Violence says funding allocated in the right place can help address the root cause of gun violence.

“If the funding is for mental health or educational opportunities or jobs or job placement, all these things that you can teach in school could reduce the root causes of gun violence,” the executive director said. 

Another proposal in the agreement would invest in school programs to expand mental health and supportive services.

Stein says there can also be training to help identify when a person could be a danger to themselves or others. Also, de-escalation techniques, anger management, and how to not resort to gun violence.

“If we have a choice on whether to spend money on how to prepare for an active shooter or to actually prevent it, obviously we should look at preventative models,” he said.

Preston Parker is with the CAGV youth council. He also attends Hopkins School in New Haven. He, along with Stein and Dias, doesn’t think arming teachers should be a part of the plan.

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“School spending should definitely be focused on more committee-based and organized groups so essentially like social service groups or social workers who can provide counseling,” the 10-grader said.

Many school districts in the state are looking at arming their security guards or hiring them. Dias says that should be up to each district community if they think their schools need that. They all say the presence of guns on campuses hasn’t prevented shootings. Parker says the focus should be on completely keeping weapons off the property.

“I think it can definitely be more jarring for students to see more firearms on the campus,” he said.

The proposal could provide funding for building security upgrades and improvements. Parker says that’s a good step but will only do so much in an active shooter situation and doesn’t “want to fortify schools so that they become sort of like a prison.”

He cited instances where the shooter was already in school when they began firing, like in Oxford, Michigan where four students were killed in November.

He said active shooting training drills can also be helpful, but says hiring more councilors who can help prepare students for that can better prepare them.

“I think there should just be more one-on-one counseling where people can talk to a social worker, tell them what they should do in a situation like this so that they can be more prepared by themselves rather than make it into a big lockdown drill,” he said.

Dias said resources for mental health in the community like diagnosis and identification can be a valuable way to spend money.

“We’d love to be able to intervene before there’s a problem,” she said. “Let’s prevent everything from getting to the point where this becomes an issue but having said that there’s also a mental impact to all of these events.”

The agreement, once drafted, could reach the Senate floor within weeks. Ten Republicans were a part of its creation meaning, technically, it could get enough support to pass if all Democrats, both Independents, and ten Republicans vote in favor.

Tony Black is a multi-media journalist at FOX61 News. He can be reached at tblack@fox61.com. Follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram


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