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Everytown Releases New School Safety Recommendations for Biden-Harris Administration on Press Call with NEA and AFT

October 7, 2021

Between August 1 and September 15, at Least 30 Instances of Gunfire Occurred on School Grounds, Killing Five and Wounding 23 — The Most Instances and People Shot in the “Back to School” Period Since Everytown Began Tracking in 2013

Everytown’s Recommendations Include Proactive Solutions to Stop Gun Violence Before it Happens By Intervening Early and Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of Prospective Shooters 

NEW YORK – On a press call today with leaders from the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, Everytown for Gun Safety released recommendations on school safety shared with the Biden-Harris Administration. The recommendations are focused on preventing gun violence before it happens and providing clear guidance on active shooter drills. 

“Today, America’s young people are on the frontlines of not one but two public health emergencies: the Covid pandemic and the gun violence epidemic,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “As students return to the classroom, we urge the Biden-Harris Administration — which has already taken strong action to protect Americans from gun violence — to do everything in its power to keep guns out of schools.”

“Back to school can’t mean back to school shootings,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “The recommendations we’re making include common sense actions the Administration can take to help protect students and keep schools safe, without the traumatizing active shooter drills that haven’t been proven to make anyone safer.”

“All students — no matter where they live or where they come from — deserve to attend public schools that are safe, desirable environments where teaching and learning can occur,” said Becky Pringle, President of the National Education Association. “Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, this country was dealing with an epidemic of gun violence. And as schools returned to in-person learning, the shootings at our schools have continued. Way too often, students are coping with the trauma of gun violence. We are tired of thoughts and prayers. That is why we are here demanding action. The House has done its job by taking action to protect our students and communities with common sense gun violence prevention. It’s time that the Senate stop stalling and do what’s right to keep America’s children safe from senseless gun violence.”

“We are here today, as we have been and as we will be, to say that there should be a safe and welcoming environment in schools and on streets,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “When we say we want safe schools, we need to do the common sense work to do that. Our kids demand no less from us.”

As we think about school safety, it’s important to recognize that when students don’t feel safe outside school, they can’t do their best in school,” said Justin Funez, a second year student at the University of Chicago and a volunteer with Students Demand Action. “School safety work must include more than what happens inside schools. We must fight against all types of gun violence that affect school aged children.”

“Already this year, gun violence has devastated dozens of schools across the country, while active shooter drills – which have never been shown to keep us safe in school – have likely traumatized countless students,” said Peren Tiemann, a volunteer leader with Lakeland High School Students Demand Action in Oregon. “The solutions are clear, and the Biden-Harris Administration has a real opportunity here to build on its reputation as the strongest gun safety administration in a generation by promoting them.”

The recommendations come amidst an increase in back-to-school gun violence. Just yesterday, four people were injured in a shooting at Timberview High School in Arlington, Texas. In fact, between August 1 and September 15 this year, there have been 30 instances of gunfire on school grounds, killing five and wounding 23. That is the most instances and people shot in that back-to-school period since Everytown started tracking gunfire on school grounds in 2013. Today, Everytown for Gun Safety, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers hosted a press call discussing this increase in instances of gunfire on school grounds, and a recording of the call is available on request. Earlier this month, the organizations released a joint statement warning of high risks of gun violence in schools and calling for immediate action. 

Among the top recommendations is that the Biden-Harris Administration should protect children and promote school safety by encouraging the secure storage of firearms. Specifically, the Biden-Harris Administration should:

  • Direct the Department of Education to develop a strategy to encourage school districts to send parents secure firearm storage information and raise awareness about the importance of secure storage in keeping schools safe. 
  • Publish guidance on the secure storage information schools should disseminate and on the methods to reach parents, and incorporate the guidance in upcoming convenings, trainings and webinars.
  • Develop and provide recommendations on the best type of secure storage devices to prevent unauthorized access by students. 
  • Direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission to complete the work initiated by the Obama Administration and review the effectiveness of gun locks and gun safes.
  • Direct the Department of Justice to enforce the laws that prevent underage students from purchasing firearms and continue to call for Congressional action to close the loopholes in the background check law.

Research shows that the best way to protect children and teens from accessing guns is to implement secure firearm storage practices. An estimated 54 percent of gun owners don’t lock all of their guns securely and at least 5.4 million children in 2021 live in a home with at least one unlocked and loaded firearm, up from 4.6 million in 2015. 

More than 1.5 million students across the country now live in a school district that requires schools to educate parents about the critical importance of secure firearm storage in keeping schools and students safe, thanks to the advocacy work of volunteers with Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action. They’ve successfully urged school boards across the country to enact such notification policies, including school districts in Vermont, Texas, California, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado. This work is part of Everytown’s comprehensive approach to keeping schools safe from all forms of gun violence. Secure firearm storage in the home is one of the most effective tools to prevent gun violence in schools. According to research from the Department of Homeland Security’s National Threat Assessment Center, up to 80% of school shooters obtain their gun from their home or the home of relatives or friends. More information about the role that secure storage can play in preventing school shooting tragedies is available here. Moms Demand Action volunteers around the country have been working to promote secure storage through Everytown’s Be SMART program — a program designed to help parents and other adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries.

The recommendations shared with the Biden-Harris Administration also focus on active shooter drills. For schools that do decide to conduct drills with students, the Biden-Harris Administration should direct the Department of Education to conduct research on the efficacy and side effects of drills and provide clear guidelines for those drills, including:

  • Drills should not include simulations that mimic or appear to be an actual shooting incident.
  • Sufficient information and notification must be provided to parents or guardians in advance about the dates, content, and tone of any drills for students.
  • Drills should be announced to students and educators prior to the start of any drill.
  • Drill content must be created by a team including administrators, teachers, school-based mental health professionals, and law enforcement and be age and developmentally appropriate. The content should incorporate student input.
  • Drills should be coupled with trauma-informed approaches to directly address students’ well-being as standard practice.

In September 2020, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund released the results of a first-of-its-kind study on active shooter drills in schools showing that these drills are associated with significant and lasting increases in depression, stress and anxiety, and fear of death among students, parents and teachers. The study, a partnership with Georgia Institute of Technology’s Social Dynamics and Wellbeing Lab, unveils strong evidence on the harmful impacts of active shooter drills. 

Using machine-learning technology to analyze nearly 28 million social media posts on Twitter and Reddit in the 90 days before and after local active shooter drills, Georgia Tech and Everytown researchers found:

  • Active shooter drills in schools are associated with increases in depression, as evidenced by a statistically significant increase in posts with words like therapy, cope, irritability, suicidal, and more;
  • Active shooter drills in schools are associated with increases in stress and anxiety, as evidenced by a statistically significant increase in posts with words like afraid, struggling, and nervous and more;
  • These trends were sustained at least 90 days following drills and spanned diverse school districts across the country and a wide variety of drill tactics.

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