School Safety: The Federal Answer to Parkland

March 20, 2018
Legal update

Following the horrific events of February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Trump held a series of meetings at the White House relating to school violence, including meeting with the victims, hosting a forum on video games and their role in societal violence, meeting with the National Governor’s Association, and with local law enforcement.

As a consequence of these meetings, on March 12, 2018, the White House announced a series of proposals that will dramatically impact schools throughout the United States. By and large, the proposals recognize that states and localities continue to hold the primary role in education, but that the federal government can and should provide expertise and financial assistance. Key elements of the proposal1 include the following:

The role of the Commission is only advisory, and many of these controversial areas fall under state control, such as raising the age to purchase “long guns” to 21. Indeed Florida has already done so, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) immediately sued Florida alleging the statute violated the Second Amendment.That being said, this Commission is the most important part of the president’s plan as it allows a fulsome discussion of a wide variety of areas of special interest to schools beyond the nuts and bolts of securing schools (which it also addresses). Perennial problem areas where schools have a real opportunity to effectuate change include a return to state and local control of school discipline, the opportunity to address flaws in FERPA, a real discussion of the role of schools in the mental health area, including a potential rethink of the IDEA and Sec. 504, which will necessarily implicate student bullying and suicide issues, as well as an opportunity to specifically address the funding issue and the perennial problem of unfunded or marginally federal mandates, such as IDEA.

Frost Brown Todd has extensive experience in these areas, including working with schools on security and policy issues, obtaining funding for enhanced security measures, and unfortunately, with handling the aftermaths of several school shootings. We are working with the federal and state authorities on these issues. If you would like assistance in dealing with these issues, or would like to be a part of the discussion, please contact Tom Wheeler or Joe Scholler in Frost Brown Todd’s Education Law Group.


1 The full proposal may be accessed on the White House’s website: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-taking-immediate-actions-secure-schools.

2  https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/09/us/nra-sues-florida-gun-law/index.html.

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