Schools shouldn’t look ‘like an armed camp’: Educators and safety experts reject NRA-funded plan

Updated
A Utah teacher is shown how to handle a handgun by instructor Clint Simon (R), at a concealed-weapons training class to 200 Utah teachers on December 27,...
A Utah teacher is shown how to handle a handgun by instructor Clint Simon (R), at a concealed-weapons training class to 200 Utah teachers on December 27,...
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Leading educational and school safety groups rejected key recommendations of a National Rifle Association-funded school safety report released Tuesday. “It’s focused too much on reacting to a shooting scenario as opposed to trying to prevent gun violence,” Marc Eagan, Associate Director for Government Relations at the nonprofit National Education Association, told msnbc.com.

The NRA commissioned a task force three months ago in response to the Newtown massacre to produce a report on school safety. Two private firms, based in Texas and Idaho,  respectively, contributed most of the task force’s 13-members. “Command Consulting Group (CCG), an international security and intelligence consulting firm, and Phoenix RBT Solutions, an industry leader in reality-based training solutions for security professionals, have teamed up to provide recommendations and training programs to assist schools nationwide in enhancing security,” reads a statement posted Wednesday on CCG’s website.

The NRA-funded report calls for states “to change current legal restrictions” to allow “selected school staff” to be “designated, trained and armed on school property.” Currently, many states allow only police officers or licensed security guards, who are then further trained, to carry firearms on school property. Most national school safety groups, including even one cited by the NRA-commissioned task force, agree that only trained police should carry firearms inside schools. The groups include organizations that each have decades of experience training School Resource Officers, the term educators use to refer to police specially vetted and trained to carry firearms inside select schools.

“Only career law enforcement officers who receive extra training to work in schools” should carry a firearm on school property, Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers told msnbc.com. Based in Alabama, NASRO is a nonprofit organization founded in 1991 that is funded through membership dues and fees charged to schools to train police officers to serve on campus. NASRO is also the only school safety organization cited in the report released Tuesday by the NRA-funded task force. This past October, two months before the Newtown shooting, NASRO released its own report on school safety. “Over the past two decades, America’s public schools have become safer and safer,” it reads. “This period of time coincides with the expansion of School Resource Officers programs as part of a comprehensive, community-oriented strategy.”

Another group, the National School Safety Center based in California, has also trained School Resource Officers. “I think that an officer can be a deterrent,” its executive director, Ronald Stephens, told msnbc.com. But he also said that only trained law enforcement personnel should be allowed to carry guns inside select schools. The National School Safety Center was founded in 1984 as an initiative of both the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice under President Ronald Reagan, although it has since become an independent nonprofit organization providing school safety training and technical assistance. The same group has trained thousands of police to serve as armed School Resource Officers.

“They are first: problem solvers, second: mentors and role models, and third: peace officers,” Stephens told msnbc.com. “We don’t want our schools to look like an armed camp.”

The NRA-funded report released this week has 125 references to an “active shooter” in its 225-pages. The NASRO report released this past October has no references to a shooter or gunman at all. Instead the NASRO report includes multiple references to concerns like illegal drugs and bullying, and even more references to goals involving community activities.

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization with three million members involved in different aspects of education. Its leaders and members seem to agree with school safety experts that only qualified and specially trained police should be armed in select schools. In January, an NEA poll found that 68% of NEA members rejected a proposal to allow teachers and other school employees to receive firearms training to carry guns in schools.

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Schools shouldn't look 'like an armed camp': Educators and safety experts reject NRA-funded plan

Updated