The National Rifle Association has put together a detailed plan that calls for armed personnel in schools to boost school security.

In a 225-page report, the group’s National School Shield Task Force, formed in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of 20 children and six school employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., calls for professionally trained armed personnel to be present at schools to provide protection against violence.

“Armed, trained, qualified school security personnel will be one element of that plan, but by no means the only element,” says Asa Hutchinson, a former U.S. senator and leader of the task force.

The report includes information on what the task force has identified as best practices for school security and includes guidance for training people as armed personnel at schools.

The task force recommendations:

  • Schools are encouraged to use a training program developed by the task force to provide professional training of armed personnel in schools. “This training will only be open to those who are designated by school officials and qualified by appropriate background investigation, testing and relevant experience,” the report says.
  • To allow for a selected school staff member to be designated, trained and armed on school property, the states will have to remove restrictions that prohibit anyone other than a sworn law-enforcement officer or licensed security guard to carry a firearm in a school
  • Each school that employs a school resource office should have an agreement between the appropriate law-enforcement agency and the school district that defines the duties and responsibilities of the officer. “The objective… is not to increase juvenile arrests within a school, but to provide security and to support the normal disciplinary policies of a school.”
  • Administrators should be encouraged to use an online self-assessment tool to enable them to comprehensively evaluate and assess the security gaps and vulnerabilities of each school. The report says the task force is creating such a tool, the Armed Aggressor Performance Guidelines and Criteria. The task force “should pilot this self-assessment tool in three school districts of different sizes in order to perfect the questions and scoring. After the pilot projects are completed, this assessment tool should be deployed in a secure fashion on the (National Shield Safety) website for free access by all schools who obtain authorization codes.”
  • Although standards related to school security vary from state to state, all public schools should be required to take part in an assessment and develop a security plan based on an institution’s unique requirements.
  • A lead federal agency should be designated to coordinate programs and the funding of local school safety efforts. “The Department of Homeland Security should be designated as the lead, supported by the Department of Education and Department of Justice,” the task force suggests.
  • A private non-profit advocacy and education organization should be selected to advocate for and support school safety. The task force volunteers itself for the job. “The National School Shield is in a position with adequate funding and support from the NRA to fulfill this important national mission,” the report says.
  • Every school would be offered free access to the online resources of the National School Shield, but the report recommends that before a school can be certified as a member of National School Shield, it must meet several criteria: completion of online security assessment; development of a comprehensive all-hazards school security plan; coordination and training with local law enforcement and first responders; presence in the school of a trained armed law-enforcement officer or trained armed school staff; and periodic reviews of school security program.
  • As part of its comprehensive security plan, each school should develop a threat assessment team, which will work in coordination with mental health professionals to create a positive school environment that encourages sharing information on early warning signs and reducing incidences of bullying or other antisocial behavior.

The task force based its recommendations on numerous findings:

  • Insufficient attention has been paid to school security needs, and the greatest security gap is found in medium- to smaller-size schools, which do not have the level of resources of the larger school districts, the task forces says.
  • Many schools do not have a written security plan, and even for those that do, the plans often are either inadequate or not properly exercised. Size, geography, student composition, building design, threats and other factors dictate the need for individualized security plans adapted to the uniqueness of a particular school.
  • A properly trained armed school officer such as a school resource officer has proven to be an important layer of security for prevention and response in the case of an active threat on a school campus.
  • Local school authorities are in the best position to make a final decision on school safety procedures, specifically whether an armed security guard is necessary and supported by the education and citizen community.
  • Some schools cannot afford armed security as part of a security plan and have resorted to staff members carrying firearms in order to provide an additional level of protection for the students and staff in the event of a violent incident.
  • Individual states, with few exceptions, have not made school security an element of adequacy in school standards.
  • Professional-quality online self-assessment tools are needed to help schools develop comprehensive safety and security plans.
  • Although numerous federal agencies and programs provide school safety resources, there is a lack of coordination among the federal agencies resulting in gaps, duplication and inefficiencies.
  • In order to properly recognize early warning signs and act to minimize the risk of violence, schools must develop a culture of awareness and willingness to share this information with the proper individuals.