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How the Federal Government Could Improve School Safety

Today’s Federal Flash covers a flurry of activity from last week around school safety, gun violence, and school discipline. It also spotlights two new bills in Congress to help students prepare for and complete college.

School Safety Hearing

Last week, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on school safety. Before the hearing, Deb Delisle, President and CEO of All4Ed, submitted a letter to the Committee recommending a broad approach to defining school safety—rather than an exclusive focus on gun violence.

Deb’s letter stated, “school safety is about more than preventing shootings. It also encompasses issues such as student voice, educational support personnel, school discipline practices, positive social and emotional learning, and student privacy.”

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Each witness at the hearing contended the federal government could do more to improve school safety, including witnesses representing victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida.

One of those witnesses was Max Schachter, the father of a student killed at Parkland and founder and CEO of Safe Schools for Alex. He urged greater transparency in data regarding school safety. Watch him speak in the video at the end of this post.

Push for School Discipline Guidance

Also last week, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report that urged the Trump Administration to issue new school discipline guidance to states and districts.

The report found that students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined in school. It also found that 1.6 million students attend a school with a sworn law enforcement officer (SLEO) but not a school counselor.

In 2014, the Obama Administration issued guidance to address disparities in school discipline practices, but the Trump administration rescinded the guidance, citing that it posed a threat to school safety. Scrapping the guidance was a recommendation of the Federal Commission on School Safety, which was created after the February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, however, argues that the Education Department should continue to offer guidance to states and districts on how to ensure their school discipline policies respect students’ civil rights.

College Readiness Bill for Hispanic Youth

Back on Capitol Hill, earlier this month Representative Joaquin Castro from Texas introduced the Hispanic Educational Resources and Empowerment, or HERE, Act. It authorizes a $150 million grant program to support collaboration between Hispanic-Serving Institutions, or HSIs, and Hispanic-serving schools districts to improve college readiness for Hispanic youth.

To be eligible for a grant, institutions and districts must have at least 25 percent Hispanic enrollment. Based on this criterion, there are currently 523 HSIs and 3,343 school districts that could gain access to these funds. Focusing on these institutions and school districts is critical given large achievement gaps in high school and college attainment for Hispanic students.

HERE Act funds can be used to

New Bill to Improve College Affordability

Also, Representative Andy Levin from Michigan and Senator Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin introduced the America’s College Promise Act to improve college affordability and increase degree attainment. It creates a new partnership between the federal government and states and Indian tribes to provide two years of tuition-free enrollment in community or technical college programs that lead to a degree or industry-recognized credential.

To access the new federal funds, states would need to align their high school graduation requirements with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in community colleges. States would also need to ensure that programs offer academic credits that are fully transferable to four-year institutions in the state.

Finally, the bill establishes a new grant program to help minority-serving institutions cover a significant portion of tuition and fees for the first two-years of attendance for students from low-income families.

This blog post represents a slightly edited transcript of the July 29 episode of Federal Flash, All4Ed’s video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, DC. For an alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, email at