President Obama's newly unveiled gun control plan includes a host of executive orders designed to help schools prepare for and respond to shootings such as those at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Taft Union High School.
Among the proposals is a new Comprehensive Schools Safety program that would include $150 million in funding to invest in areas such as mental health counseling, security personnel, and crisis intervention training.
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How this funding is used at the ground level will vary from district to district and school to school, according to the White House.
"Each school is different and should have the flexibility to address its most pressing needs. Some schools will want trained and armed police; others may prefer increased counseling services," the administration stated in a release. "Either way, each district should be able to choose what is best to protect its own students."
To understand what the president's plan might look like in their child's high school, parents should read the proposals and then start asking questions, says Betsy Landers, president of the National Parent Teacher Association.
There are two key areas parents should clarify with schools and district administrators: school resource officers and crisis management.
Obama is pushing for more school resources officers—"specially trained police officers that work in schools"—as part of his gun control plan and will give incentives to police departments to fill these positions.
Many schools already have these officers in one form or another, but the certification and requirements for the role vary by state, Landers says. In some states, a resource officer is an armed guard, while in others they may be an unarmed, retired police officer.
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Parents should attend school board meetings and question district officials to find out whether the district plans to add resource officers and exactly how those officers would serve at their teen's school, including what training they will receive and whether or not they will be armed, Landers adds.
Obama also hopes to funnel money to schools to create or beef up emergency plans, but will need congressional approval for the funding. Ideally, every school should already have a plan in place, Landers says, and parents should be familiar with the details of it, including when it was last updated and how often the school conducts drills.
"For many years we were hypervigilant about fire safety," she says. "I think now, with Sandy Hook in mind, parents are increasingly aware of, 'Does my school have a crisis plan in place for other things?'"
Questions such as, "What is the lockdown procedure?" and "How will I be notified if there is an incident?" are important to ask, Landers adds.
"The importance of being an involved parent is more than just being inside of the building volunteering," Landers says. "Part of being an involved parent is being aware of these types of things."