• Book Review,  School Safety

    Book Review: We Say #NeverAgain – Reporting by the Parkland Student Journalists

    Just over a year ago, on February 14th, 2018, the lives of students at Parkland, FL’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were shattered by the violence of a mass school shooting. The Parkland shooting would draw national attention, much as previous events like the tragedies at Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary had in years before. And, sadly, it would become a backdrop for a number of other school shootings, including that in Santa Fe, Texas, that would occur before the year was through. The Parkland shooting, however, has emerged as unique for how students responded and engaged after the shooting. Students from Stoneman Douglas High have entered the…

  • Discipline,  Equity

    Testimony in Support of MD HB950

    Below is testimony I submitted in support of MD HB950, a bill set to increase access to school discipline data and to set a more ambitious target for reducing racial disparities in school discipline. The full text of the bill can be found here. Testimony for the House Ways and Means Committee HB 950 – State Department of Education – School Discipline – Data Collection February 28, 2019 Position: Support I write from the perspective of an educational researcher and as a former public school teacher.  I am currently an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the UMBC School of Public Policy where my research has led to presentations and…

  • Discipline,  Equity

    Just what are ‘zero tolerance’ policies – and are they still common in America’s schools?

    When parents and educators discuss school discipline, one of the things that comes up most are “zero tolerance” policies. This term is often misused and misunderstood, according to new research I published recently. Zero tolerance policies are also thought to be widespread. But, my work and a recent report show they are actually less common than frequently thought.

  • Discipline,  Equity

    Restorative practices may not be the solution, but neither are suspensions

    Proponents of restorative justice suffered a blow recently with the late 2018 release of a much anticipated RAND study of restorative practices in Pittsburgh schools. The study’s results showed restorative practices were not as effective as many hoped – or as they are sometimes portrayed by proponents and in the media. Unlike traditional disciplinary approaches, such as suspension, which remove students from school, restorative practices focus on repairing harm done by getting victims and perpetrators together to talk. The idea is to rebuild and restore a sense of dignity and community. As an educational researcher who studies school discipline, I think it would be misguided to use the study as…

  • Discipline,  Equity,  School Safety

    Recommendation to Give Teachers Guns Misses the Mark

    The Federal Commission on School Safety, which was formed in the wake of several high-profile mass school shootings earlier this year, released its final report earlier this month. The report recommends, among other things, that school districts consider increasing the presence of armed school staff. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the recommendation has been met with condemnation from both politicians on the left and public commentators. Detractors of the proposal contend that adding more guns to schools is not the solution to preventing violence. That said, the recommendation is not as universally condemned as the media may portray it. A recent poll by PDK suggests that half of the parents of primary and secondary education…

  • School Safety

    Chicago’s Safe Passage program costs a lot, but it may provide students safer routes to school

    While walking to school last month, a 15-year-old Chicago girl was confronted by two masked men in a van with tinted windows in an attempted kidnapping. Fortunately, the girl escaped and ran to a nearby adult. The men drove off. As it turns out, the presence of this adult was more than a fortunate coincidence. For the past decade, Chicago Public Schools has been placing hundreds of adult monitors on streets around schools as part of a program called Safe Passage. Every morning and afternoon, Safe Passage monitors take up position along designated routes near a quarter of Chicago’s schools in neighborhoods with some of the highest rates of crime.…

  • School Safety

    School safety commission misses the mark by ignoring guns

    A federal school safety commission that formed after the Parkland, Florida, school massacre won’t be focusing on guns. That’s according to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who stated recently that firearms were “not part of the commission’s charge per se.” She made the remark in response to a U.S. senator who asked if the commission would consider the role of firearms in school violence. Of course, if the commission were to focus on just guns, they would miss the mark. But as a scholar who studies school safety, I similarly believe if the commission ignores one of the main contributors to school shootings – particularly one as important as the…

  • School Safety

    Improving school climate, not just security, is key to violence prevention

    School shootings like the one that took place in Santa Fe, Texas, on May 18 are often followed by calls for enhanced security measures. But Santa Fe High School already had many of these security measures in place. For instance, the high school had a school resource officer who responded to the attack. The school also had security cameras in place and had recently conducted active shooting training and drills. As the nation searches for ways to prevent school violence, the focus must be as much on school climate and culture as it is on school security. I make this argument as an educational researcher who studies school safety.v

  • Equity,  School Safety

    A school resource officer in every school?

    Less than three weeks after a school resource officer stopped an armed teen who shot two students at a Maryland high school, lawmakers in Maryland voted to expand law enforcement presence in schools statewide. The Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018, signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan on April 10, requires all public schools in Maryland to have a designated school resource officer, more commonly known as an SRO, or “adequate local law enforcement coverage” by the 2019-2020 school year. Maryland’s bill follows a similiar state law passed in Florida. Additionally, a number of local school districts nationwide are considering or have recently announced expansions of law enforcement…

  • School Safety

    Federal spending bill deals blow to school safety research

    Long before the current state of heightened attention to school shootings, my colleagues and I began a two-year study of school safety and the role of law enforcement officers in public schools. Our work is funded by the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative of the National Institute of Justice. To date, the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative has funded 100 research projects that involve almost US$250 million in total. Research projects have looked at things ranging from school emergency response plans to policing strategies that use alternatives to arrest. Collectively, this research is meant to build a robust evidence base so policymakers can use proven ways to keep students safe in school.…