On September 25, 2019, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released The Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans, which is a guide to emergency operations plans (“EOPs”).  The guide addresses a variety of topics, including the roles and responsibilities of schools, school districts, and community partners regarding school safety, along with prevention and mitigation techniques.  The guide also describes that school districts should coordinate with schools and community partners to make EOPs more collaborative.  The guide details that districts can improve their EOPs by providing planning parameters for use by schools throughout their entire districts and supporting schools as they create EOPs to address and plan for hazards (such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks, or accidents) and threats (human-caused emergencies, such as crime or violence) specific to their school’s needs. 
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Following the school shootings at Marjory Stoneman and Santa Fe High Schools, President Trump established an executive Commission on School Safety. The Commission’s members were Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education, Kirstjen Nelson, Secretary of Homeland Security, Alex Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Matthew Whitaker, Acting Attorney General. The Commission was charged with producing policy recommendations in an effort to help prevent future tragedies. After conducting field visits, listening sessions, and meeting with state and local leaders, the Commission issued a report calling for, among other things, “more threads of love, empathy, and connection” in our country’s “moral fabric.”

The report covers a host of school safety topics, including proposed best practices for improving school climate, increasing access to school-based mental health services, coordinating with the media in reporting safety breaches, and school discipline. The report also recommends improving and increasing school safety training, including modules on active shooter preparedness.
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On Friday, September 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) and Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct. The DCL withdrew the 2011 DCL on Sexual Violence and the 2014 Q&A on Title IX and Sexual Violence issued by the previous administration. In the DCL, Candice Jackson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights stated, “[t]he 2011 and 2014 guidance documents may have been well-intentioned, but those documents have led to the deprivation of rights for many students-both accused students denied fair process and victims denied an adequate resolution of their complaints.” The Acting Assistant Secretary went on to state that the 2011 and 2014 guidance documents imposed regulatory burdens without affording notice and the opportunity for public comments.

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The United States Education and Justice Departments recently released companion Dear Colleague Letters providing guidance on implementing School Resource Officers (“SROs”). In those letters, the Departments explained how school districts should use memoranda of understanding (“MOUs”) with local law enforcement agencies in order to clarify their expectations for SROs. Among other things, the MOUs should require training for officers working in schools and should explicitly state that their proper role is not to administer day-to-day discipline. This guidance comes in response to media scrutiny on situations involving SROs, like the infamous case last year in which a video of a sheriff’s deputy throwing a high school student out of her chair attracted nationwide attention.
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drug and gun free zoneAs the 2016-2017 school year begins, school administrators across the country brace themselves for the host of issues that every new school year brings. In recent years, a new issue has been added to this list of school district worries: guns on campus.

Spurred by tragedies like Columbine, Newtown and other school shootings, gun legislation has captured news headlines and divided legislatures. In contrast to the expansive federal Gun Free Schools legislation passed in the 1990s, more states are now debating—and sometimes passing—laws that allow “open carry” in certain public places or that also expand the areas in which permit holders may carry concealed weapons.
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