Armed security officers in American schools are becoming more prevalent, according to a federal study released Thursday.
Data from the survey, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, indicates armed officers were present at least once a week in 43 percent of all public schools during the 2015-16 school year, compared with 31 percent of schools a decade before, reports Fox News.
The percentage of schools with an unarmed security guard, school resource officer or other sworn law enforcement officer on campus at least once a week has also gone up from 42 percent in 2005-06 to 57 percent a decade later.
“There has been an increase in security staff in school over the last 10 years and it’s more pronounced at the primary school level,” said Lauren Musu-Gillette, lead author of the report.
Security staff has gone from 26 percent to 45 percent in the same time period at elementary schools, according to SF Gate.
The February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has put renewed focus on the role of armed school security guards, creating a clear divide between supporters of armed officers in schools and opponents who believe it will frighten children and lead to more arrests.
Many opponents have defended their position by pointing to the fact that Scot Peterson, the Broward County Sheriff’s deputy assigned to the Parkland, Fla., school, was armed but did not enter the building to confront the shooter.
Ron Astor, an education professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in school behavior, says putting guns in schools will make them feel like prisons, intimidate children and hurt their studies. He recommends providing an environment focused on providing support to students, which reduces violence, bullying and the use of drugs and guns, reports Chicago Sun Times.
“With a lot of guns, it doesn’t create a sense of safety with the children and the teachers. It could trigger post-traumatic stress disorder. It triggers nonattendance,” he said.
Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Council, disagrees, saying trained officers carrying weapons can help prevent a shooting in a school and deter a potential shooter from entering.
“It sends the signal that the school is being watched and that the care and supervision of children is an important priority,” he said.
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released a statement Thursday regarding the study’s findings, stating while there were some positive trends in the survey, “we know — and tragically have been reminded in recent weeks — there is much more to be done to keep our nation’s students and teachers safe at school.”
Additional findings from the study show the number of school deaths ranged from approximately 45 to 63 during the past decade, with the higher totals being attributed to major school shootings such as Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech. During the 2015-16 school year, 47 students or staff members were killed during school attacks.
The survey also found that while student and staff fatalities in school shootings continue, students are reporting fewer instances of violence, theft and other abuse. The percentage of students who say they were victimized at school dropped from 10 percent in 1995 to three percent in 2005.
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