Education Week - April 11, 2018 - 24
LETTERS to the EDITOR
School Safety Is Everyone's Responsibility
Emotional Disabilities Are Misunderstood
To The Editor:
Jennifer Young's March 19 online Commentary "The Case
for Limiting School Security," is incomplete and inaccurate.
Sandy Hook Elementary School was not equipped with
visual surveillance equipment, and we had one system for
entry: a locked front door with buzz-in capability. Training
was minimal, and for substitute teachers, nonexistent. Our
attacker did not fire on a lock to enter, he broke unprotected
window glass. There was no secure vestibule or front-office
area to prevent further access. The school's safety systems
were not fully functioning, and teachers could not safely lock
doors. On his way to Sandy Hook, where police vehicles rarely
visited, our attacker passed by two Newtown schools with
school resource officers and a police vehicle parked outside.
For safer schools, empathy and security aren't either/or
choices. We need both. School safety is a three-legged stool
comprised of: people (students, teachers, staff, community
members), place (building and campus), and practices/policies
(routines and rules supporting safe activities). A proactive,
comprehensive, developmentally appropriate approach to
school safety doesn't conflate schools with prisons. Instead of
instilling "fear, distrust, paranoia," talking about safety fosters
Security and surveillance systems aren't PR tactics, but
part of a holistic solution. If prevention fails, schools need to
recognize and respond to threats. Swapping technology for
empathy is too simplistic because every school is different.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the array of threats
The STOP School Violence Act of 2018 answers a longoverdue need for funding addressing infrastructure, evidencebased education, training, support, and 21st-century technology.
These much-needed resources will help communities prevent,
not incite violence. While we don't agree with the points in
Young's essay, we are glad people are joining the conversation.
School safety isn't one person's responsibility, it is everyone's
To the Editor:
In the March 21 article "Fact Sheet: Students With
Emotional Disabilities," the reporter cites a study of school
shooters as evidence that special education students are
no more likely than their peers to be shooters. Rather than
concluding that emotional disturbance isn't a potential marker
for becoming a shooter, perhaps a better conclusion is that
emotional disturbance is underidentified by the schools.
That same study found that 34 percent of the shooters had a
mental-health evaluation, 17 percent had been diagnosed with
a mental illness or behavior disorder before the attack,
78 percent had suicidal thoughts or had attempted suicide,
and 61 percent had a history of depression.
The most current figures from the U.S. Department of
Education document that a mere 0.5 percent of students
received special education services as emotionally disturbed
between the years 2011 and 2015. Any stigma these troubled
students had didn't come from being identified as emotionally
disturbed for special education; it likely came from their
behaviors-behaviors that should have signaled a referral for
special education evaluation.
Michele Gay and Alissa Parker
Safe And Sound Schools
successful learning for all students with a variety of needs, such
as learning difficulties, mental-health issues, and poverty.
School communities must address reasonable class size
and the number of students a teacher teaches in a day.
Appropriate teaching tools and materials, adequate facilities,
student mental-health support, family social-work support,
and improved school nutrition go a lot further than another
round of testing, report cards, and another politicized round
of national reforms.
The only successful school improvements happen at the school
site and in every teacher's classroom. In the article, 68 percent of
teachers report that new reforms or changes aren't really new,
that "they've all been tried before." Why do we keep promoting
"reforms" that do not work? Because these initiatives are not
reforms. They are political movements created by politicians and
lobbyists who use notions of change that are not research based.
Education improvements must focus on the needs of the
school, principal, teachers, and students. Magical government
fixes do not exist. After a half-century of inadequate
attempts to improve, you would think that by now we could
dramatically shift our focus and support to where the true
work is completed every day: in the schoolhouse.
David R. Tobergte
Daniel P. Hallahan
Senior Teaching Professor of Educational Administration
University of Virginia
Teaching Professor of Educational Administration
There Is No Silver-Bullet 'Reform'
To The Editor:
In the Jan. 17 article "How Much Reform Is Too Much?
Teachers Weigh In," the opening statement that "change is
hard, particularly for teachers" puts the blame on teachers
again by suggesting that teachers are somehow unable to
adapt to progress. This attitude is at the heart of why our
schools have not improved or moved in a positive direction
since the Sputnik era.
For five decades, we have designed a multitude of new
improvement cures, with a recent focus on "fixing" (mostly
female) teachers who just can't cut it. Yet, teachers are eager to
change when "cures" are based on proven research and promote
Education Week takes no editorial positions, but publishes
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FroM Educ Ation W EEk Pr Ess
FROM EDUC ATION W EEK PR ESS
Author Gary Marx
and our future.
24 | EDUCATION WEEK | April 11, 2018 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary