John Rogers: Principals Focused on Threat of Gun Violence in Schools

Study by UCLA researchers reveals that nine out of ten principals say their high school or community has been impacted by gun violence.

UCLA Professor of Education John Rogers has published a commentary in EdSource, highlighting the constant threat of gun violence that is foremost in the minds of high school principals. Rogers, who directs the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at UCLA (IDEA), shared findings from a recent study titled, “School and Society in the Age of Trump,” that revealed the constant concern over gun violence that was evident from interviews with 505 principals across the nation.

“In the survey, high-school principals from California to Connecticut said the threat of gun violence ‘has captured the most attention,’ represents the ‘largest stress,’ and poses the ‘gravest concerns,'” Rogers writes. “In the words of one principal, ‘it’s probably the first thing I think of every morning and every night. You know, God forbid, but, what if.'”

Professor of Education John Rogers leads the Institute for Democracy,

Rogers notes that 20 years after the shootings at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, the principals reported that they spend more time addressing problems associated with the threat of gun violence than any other challenge currently affecting their schools. These efforts include the need for principals to respond to threats on social media, follow-up quickly on incidents, and keep in contact with students in order to reduce concerns and connect them with counseling or other services. Rogers also states that campus security measures are being radically adapted to these potentially deadly environments.

“Principals are also deeply engaged in efforts to prevent school shootings, with most focused on efforts to ‘harden’ and secure their campuses,” writes Rogers. “This high-cost strategy typically entails purchasing security cameras, electronic doors, safety locks on teachers’ classrooms, safety coating on glass and stronger windows. And many schools have begun to limit entry and exit to one “secure” site on campus and to train educators and students how to respond to the threat of school shootings. In 2018, California approved new legislation (AB 1747), expanding school safety plans to include procedures for active shooter situations and requiring schools to conduct annual active shooter drills. The state also approved AB 3205 requiring school construction or modernization projects to include plans for door locks that allow classroom doors to be locked from the inside.”

Professor Rogers calls for a more humanistic approach to preventing gun violence, calling for consideration from schools and national policymakers for “a different approach to preventing gun violence.”

“A meaningful way to mark the tragic anniversary of Columbine would be to heed the words of one Michigan principal who told us that strategies that support students’ psychological well-being and encourage them to look out for and “take care of other kids” are “more important than the hard, physical stuff like bulletproof glass and clear backpacks,” posits Rogers. “A system of safe and relationship-centered schools is best achieved through a public health model that emphasizes integrated systems and supports that promote safety and locate and address problems at their source. Such a plan should also ensure that schools have the counselors, psychologists and social workers needed to identify students in need of counseling and provide mental health services, and consider reasonable strategies aimed at restricting access to the most dangerous and destructive weapons.”

To read, “For principals, biggest task is creating a school culture without the threat of gun violence” in EdSource, visit this link.