Federal Commission on School Safety’s Report Mentions SBHCs But Downplays Role of Guns in School Violence

Federal Commission on School Safety’s Report Mentions SBHCs But Downplays Role of Guns in School Violence

WASHINGTON, DC (December 20, 2018)– This week, the Federal Commission on School Safety—the Trump Administration’s response to the Parkland tragedy—released its final report. The report describes a wide variety of gun violence prevention strategies, including school-based health centers.

Comprehensive, integrated primary care and mental health service models like SBHCs get considerable (and deserved) attention from the commission. Voicing the Alliance’s support for this portion of the report, Alliance president John Schlitt said, “This is encouraging news to advocates who have long championed the success of prevention and early intervention services in schools through community-based partnerships. We commit to working in partnership with interested national groups to call for more federal support of these delivery models.”

However, the report also includes a recommendation that has been less than welcome by civil rights and education leadership groups: rescinding the Obama administration’s efforts to eliminate racial disparities in school discipline policies. The Alliance, along with other student health advocacy groups, worries that such a move would set back efforts to create more therapeutic alternatives to discipline.

Schlitt said, “Rather than pushing for quick-fix solutions that may have no effect on the underlying causes of violence (think armed officers at the school building door), it‘s time we took the long view and imagined something better for our children. What does freedom from violence look like? It’s not hard to envision the structural conditions that help immunize young people from violence.”

Structural inequities borne out in our nation as poverty and racism have toxic byproducts. We witness them daily in our schools, manifested as stress, trauma, violence, segregation, alienation, and criminalization. And they disproportionately touch young people of color and lower socioeconomic status. The result is persistent and unjust disparities in their health and academic outcomes—and all attributable to their social and economic disadvantage.

The Commission’s vision of safe schools is only possible once we tackle socially-manufactured inequities head on and acknowledge that the playing field for our nation’s children is far from level.

Also troubling to the Alliance and the school-based health care community at-large is what’s missing from the 177-page report: common sense gun control policies called for by gun violence prevention activists like those at Stoneman Douglas High School.

We join with groups like The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights that call on policy-makers to support “evidence-based strategies that will create the safe, welcoming schools all of our children deserve.”

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