Home > Uncategorized > A Former Trump Administration USDOE Official Makes Sense on School Violence

A Former Trump Administration USDOE Official Makes Sense on School Violence

June 22, 2018

I was pleasantly surprised to read an article I agreed with regarding school violence in Real Clear Education, a right-leaning publication… especially when I discovered that the article was written by a former official from the DeVos/Trump Administration! Unlike most of the politically charged information that emanates from USDOE, this op ed piece by Stanley Buchesky avoids any politicization of the slaughters that occurred in public schools over the past school year. Instead of offering costly, impractical and unrealistic solutions to the problems of school shootings, Mr. Buchesky focussed on the real issue behind gun violence: the lack of an emphasis on social-emotional instruction in public schools. He opens his op ed piece by suggesting that gun control and profiling of potential shooters are both dead ends. he gun control issue is deemed a dead-end because “...the country is so divided that no changes will realistically reduce school violence” and profiling hasn’t worked because even when the signs are clear and unequivocal that someone might be a shooter nothing can be done to prevent them. Mr. Buchesky concludes his opening section with this:

Numerous studies by the CDC, the Department of Education, and even the Secret Service havedetermined risk factors correlated with school violence. They’ve found that there is no “typical” profile for a school shooter. However, one finding stands out: Most violence in schools is committed by students or former students with mental health problems.

A common knee-jerk reaction is that we should find these people and prevent them from access to guns. But, that doesn’t address the underlying mental health problem or tendency toward violence. In fact, such an approach might prevent people from seeking help if they know they will be tracked.

If we really want to prevent violence, we need to address mental health and work toward healing and social-emotional development.

Typically this kind of “soft” issue is left for families and churches to address. But Mr. Buchesky implies it should fall within the responsibilities of schools. Writing under the heading of “Social Emotional Learning (SEL)”, Mr. Buchesky offers the following:

SEL is the best tool we have available for violence prevention. It teaches relationship-building and fosters connectedness — protective factors that counter the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). And research shows that teaching SEL alongside traditional academic skills significantly improves overall academic performance.

As common as it is to see a therapist or take anti-depressants, mental health treatment remains a stigma, especially for children. But SEL is mental health by a different name, and because it can be beneficial for all students, it removes the stigma. I call it “surreptitious mental health.”

If we can teach children to express their thoughts and feelings, ask for their needs and wants, and resolve conflicts verbally, we can dramatically reduce violence.

The Left and Right can easily coalesce around this issue. If SEL can prevent violence and improve academic performance, why isn’t every school district making it a top priority?

Unfortunately Mr. Buchesky dodges the elephant in the room on this topic: money to pay for these services…. and that may be the reason that the Left and Right are NOT coalescing around this issue…. especially when his boss and the POTUS seem enamored of solutions that harden schools instead of providing “surreptitious mental health.”  The fact that an individual who was the “Managing Partner of The Edtech Fund and was the Trump Administration’s “Beachhead” team CFO for the U.S. Department of Education from January to June, 2017” is making this kind of suggestion is heartening… but the fact that he is a former member of the USDOE makes me think it may not become the policy of the current administration.

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