School Safety & the Senate’s Bipartisan Gun Control Bill

Yesterday, Senators released the proposed Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to address gun violence in our communities. Our statement:

“We all deserve to feel and be safe – especially in our schools, our supermarkets, our houses of worship, and our communities. We applaud the steps Congress has taken to respond to our communities’ very real concerns about gun violence following the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde – with new gun control measures and nearly $3 billion to support community and school-based mental health services.

However, we know the bill falls short of the real gun control policies we need – like banning assault weapons and expanding background checks on all gun sales. These policies are broadly popular among voters in both parties, but are held up because there are Senators beholden to a gun lobby that pours millions into their campaigns and allows them to stay in power while Black elders are gunned down in grocery stores and Brown babies are killed in school.

The bill also proposes $300 million to increase police in schools – known as school resource officers (SROs) – and the use of metal detectors and other carceral technologies via the STOP School Violence Act of 2018. This proposed new spending to expand law enforcement in schools shows a continued and misguided reliance on policing as the only or primary violence prevention strategy.

The police response in Uvalde reminds us that not only do police not prevent school shootings, their failures result in tragic outcomes. Now is not the time to double down on what does not work.

Over the last two decades, the federal government has funneled millions to school districts to hire SROs through the COPS Hiring Program, funding thousands of positions in hundreds of communities across the country. And yet, there is no empirical evidence that SROs prevent school shootings. Instead, federal data shows that police in schools disproportionately target students of color, students with disabilities, and students of color with disabilities – pushing young people into the school-to-prison pipeline and disrupting growth and learning.

We need meaningful gun control coupled with the things that build truly safe schools – providing physical, psychological, and emotional safety for all students. That means fully funding our public schools to have the teachers, staff, materials and spaces children need. It means ensuring that school-based health and mental health providers are the first to see children who are not feeling well, are stressed or traumatized, are experiencing abuse, have an undiagnosed disability, or are at risk of hurting themselves or others.

We must rise to meet this moment.”