Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Written testimony on H4121 (the gun bill)

For those who find it useful. You can find the members of this committee here. Thanks to Grace for sharing her research on this!

To the members of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security:

I would have preferred to give my testimony today before you in person; unfortunately, it was only yesterday that I learned that H4121, widely billed as “the gun bill,” in fact has a number of provisions in it that are of interest, and indeed, of concern, to school districts.

Let me preface by saying that I applaud your attention to gun control. Worcester lost a member of the class of 2014 just a few weeks ago to a gun, and the work you do to keep our kids safe is greatly appreciated.I am troubled, therefore, by the requirement that each district hire a “School Resource Officer” to be in charge of school safety, answering to both the police chief and the superintendent of a community. With all of the work that the Legislature, and in particular, the Joint Committee on Education, has done around reforming school discipline and cutting the school-to-prison pipeline, this is a giant step backwards.

We know too well what a single arrest does to the chances of a student completing school, and sending a student who has had court interaction to a school with a high rate of arrest correlates with an alarming increase in such students dropping out.

I understand that there might be an adult perception of safety in the presence of police; however, students frequently report feeling less safe with the perception that an armed guard is needed in school. There is also troubling evidence that students who are subjected to activities intended as “deterrence” have a greatly increased chance of future infractions.

In short, evidence clearly demonstrates that this proposed state mandate, rather than making our children safer in schools, may well make them less safe. That is unacceptable. I would ask that you strike this part from the bill, and take a very close look at the other various mandates on school districts that are also part of this bill. Gun safety is a societal issue, not a school issue, and loading districts with more “must do’s” does not help us to do the job with which we are charged. Please focus on gun safety, and allow us to focus on educating children.

Thank you for your attention,

Tracy O’Connell Novick
Worcester School Committee
see, for example, the Justice Policy Institute’s for more information regarding the effect of police in schools.
 see, for example, Does Official Intervention Result in Deviance Amplification?

No comments: