Since January 1, two acts of targeted violence have unfolded in our nation’s schools. At this rate, we are likely to see at least one more attack in one of our schools over the next 13 days – and should steel ourselves for a depressingly similar number of incidents through December 31, 2013, and beyond. Unless, as a nation, we start making some significant changes.
In two days, we will hear from the White House on its plans to confront this threat to the nation’s children. The media has widely reported that the administration is likely to focus principally on gun control issues. We believe, however, that the administration’s focus will actually be broader and hope that it addresses the many additional levers of prevention available to it – levers that could first stop and then reverse the awful trend we are witnessing in our schools. The U.S. government doesn’t need another department within the executive branch. But there is another option the administration should consider which, until now, has never been presented. We suggest that, using the framework in which the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was established in 1989, the administration establish the White House Office to Prevent Targeted School Violence (OPTSV). The United States has no national strategy to prevent targeted violence in schools. That should be our first priority. It can be done in 60 days or less. As we have previously noted on this blog, several federal agencies have made significant contributions to this cause. That’s not enough. We need a Targeted Violence Czar to take the lead. Someone accountable. Someone who understands the challenges. Someone who, most importantly, brings the skills of a change agent to the table – and an ability to sponsor and sustain collaboration in this effort across the federal platform. The administration understands this role. In fact, in 1982, then-Senator Joseph Biden was credited with championing the concept of the nation’s first drug czar. We propose that, as part of the Executive Office of the President, the OPTSV would lead the government-wide effort to bring a renewed emphasis on:
- Drafting a national strategy to prevent targeted violence in schools;
- Coordinating the nationwide alignment of all grants and resources with the national strategy;
- Working with state agencies and local governments to ensure the national strategy extends to community-based prevention initiatives;
- Initiating early-intervention programs for those suffering from mental illness with a stated interest in school violence;
- Aligning policy related to criminal justice, education and health and human services with the focus on targeted school violence prevention;
- Funding research on school violence prevention; and,
- Coordinating national-level resources to conduct social media and open-source monitoring to identify individuals online who exhibit behaviors of concern to targeted violence experts or display unusual directions of interest toward specific schools, administrators, teachers or students.
In line with this proposal – and as Act #13 – we will seek to gain the administration’s interest in addressing the five objectives outlined above by creating the White House Office to Prevent Targeted School Violence.