Obama urges school safety, mental health grants

In addition to various gun control measures, President Obama wants to fund school safety and mental health initiatives in response to the Sandy Hook massacre, reports Ed Week.

A new, $150 million Comprehensive School Safety Program would fund 1,000 additional school resource officers (guards), psychologists, social workers and counselors.  Another $30 million would help school districts develop emergency plans.

Obama wants $50 million to help 8,000 schools “put in place new strategies to improve school climate and discipline, such as consistent rules and rewards for good behavior,” reports Ed Week.

The mental health package would improve young people’s access to mental health services. Also:

 $15 million to help teachers and other adults who work with youth provide “Mental Health First Aid,” enabling them to identify students with mental health problems early and steer them toward treatment;

$40 million to help districts work with law enforcement and other local agencies to coordinate services for students who demonstrate need;

$25 million to finance new, state-based strategies to identify individuals ages 16 to 25 with mental health and substance abuse issues and get them the care they need.

$25 million to help schools offer mental health services aimed at combating trauma, anxiety, and bolstering conflict resolution; and,

$50 million in new money to train social workers, counselors, psychologists and other mental health professionals.

Before Newtown, Obama proposed eliminating grants designated for school counselors and nearly $300 million aimed at school safety, notes Ed Week. Now the administration is back to creating little pots of federal money for specific uses.

My daughter interned with the California Education Department’s office on preventing school violence two years after the Columbine massacre. She created a web site showing grants districts could seek to fund various anti-violence programs. When that was done, she was asked to help districts evaluate the various programs by posting links to research on their effectiveness. There was no such research. Perhaps we’re wiser now on what works for troubled kids.

Obama’s proposals — “well-intentioned and largely symbolic” — could undermine instruction by wasting time, energy and money preparing for a exceptionally unlikely event, writes Rick Hess.

The president’s proposed “mental health first aid” training grant works out to $150 per school.

. . . it’s likely educators will get a few hours of desultory training, which will be just enough to waste their time without making a difference. Or, if they actually get the training and support they need to do this well (with the $150 per school!), it’ll distract from training in their core work of preparing instruction, crafting assessments, monitoring student learning, and so forth.

An array of federal grants create “extra paperwork, meetings, and opportunities for small-dollar consultants,” writes Hess.

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  1. People who knew them had already identified most of the mass shooters as psych cases (in Hasan’s case, radical Islamic). The problem is getting them committed to secured, long-term facilities. I was around during the de-institutionalization movement and the prevailing sentiment, then and now, is that such containment violates individual liberties (enter ACLU). The fact that it contains the potentially dangerous before they become the actually dangerous, is treated as irrelevant. Where I currently live, only a 72-hour hold is possible, which is not even long enough to do a real assessment and diagnosis, let alone start treatment and evaluate it (and change or modification is likely necessary). Making involuntary committment , which I gather was in process in the Newtown case, possible (and financially feasible) for a longer period (4-6 weeks) would be an improvement, particularly combined with the judicial review and extended commitment process expedited. Some people aren’t safe enough to be allowed to remain in the community.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Right. Two problems: One is who is going to make the decision to start the process. See Jared Loughner in Tucson. Many, many run-ins with law enforcement and neighbors and schools. Nothing.
      The other is exemplified by the Rosenhan experiment, which was mentioned some time back by Mark Roulo, iirc. The shrinks can’t tell the well from the nuts in many cases, with ominous results for anybody who happens to get crosswise with authority. And, given such discretion on the part of Sheriff Dupnik in Tucson, the other side is taking in somebody who’s not a nutcase, just inconvenient.

  2. So, after heckling NRA President Wayne LaPierre for suggesting that schools need more SRO’s, school staff need training for shooting crisis scenarios, and that our country needs to reexamine the culture of violence and its influence on mental health, the media congratulates and fawns over President Obama stating the same things. Go figure.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    Consistent rules for discipline, huh? Has Arne Duncan heard about this?

  4. While I agree preparing for a “largely unlikely event” could be a poor use of time, focus on mental health issues in today’s society is not a poor use of time or resources. I definitely agree with momof4 that part of the issue is having people who have been identified as mentally ill committed or found a place that is not out free among the general populace. I’m not saying lock everyone up, but in certain cases, there have been multiple chances and the person continues to be a cause for concern. There is a need for secured, long-term facilities to handle these individuals. Also, I agree with the fact Obama is being lauded for adding essentially nothing to the nation’s school budgets while the NRA is being attacked for speaking in favor of protection for the nation’s children.