NACAC Director of Communications
Arlington, VA (March 16, 2018) — Responding to the unprecedented wave of student activism in the wake of recent school shootings, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) today joined the urgent call for Congress and President Trump to take action on school violence.
Last month’s deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was just the latest example of gun-related violence targeted at students, often by individuals not much older than themselves, NACAC officials noted.
Association members and other college admission counseling professionals work in schools, colleges, and universities throughout the country. They have a compelling interest in ensuring the safety of their students as well as their own safety. When students are worried about mortal danger, they cannot focus on their academic responsibilities, a task which should be their primary objective at school.
NACAC notes that gun violence in schools directly affects the college admission counseling profession in the following ways:
- Gun violence and “campus carry” policies at institutions of postsecondary education create potentially unsafe situations for the entire campus community, including students; faculty; administrators; day care centers; and campus visitors, including prospective students and high school students taking dual enrollment or similar courses.
- School counselors spend an increasing amount of their limited time and capacity responding to threats of violence and/or providing students with counseling and other services when violence occurs, further detracting from their ability to deliver academic and postsecondary advising to students.
- College admission officers worry for their personal safety when traveling to scores of high schools each week to counsel and recruit students for higher education opportunities at their institutions.
- Incidents of gun violence may further discourage students in other countries from considering attending high school or college in the United States, which negatively impacts our schools and communities.
- Often, school safety officers outnumber school counselors. If student retention, mental health, and improved college access are our nation’s policy goals, this imbalance is not an educationally sound approach to educating our children, and is indicative of the outsized influence of gun violence on our society.
“A comprehensive, long-term approach is needed to help prevent future incidents of gun violence from occurring in our nation’s schools,” said Joyce Smith, NACAC’s chief executive officer. “Students can’t learn and professionals can’t do their jobs when they are in fear for their lives.”
NACAC offered the following policy recommendations from the college admission counseling perspective to contribute to the national discussion about preventing gun violence in our nation’s schools.
- Address the easy access to semiautomatic weapons and accessories that increase their lethalness. While many proposals related to mental health and security improvements have been made over the years, there has been no recent attempt to address the role that weapons of war have played in escalating the death and injury toll in these incidents at US schools. Nor has any effort been made to ban the manufacturing and use of accessories, like bump stocks, that essentially circumvent current law. AASA: The School Superintendents Association has recommended common-sense gun safety proposals that should be given serious consideration by Congress.
- Restore funding for programs aimed at minimizing violence—including gun violence—at schools in the US. Programs like the Safe and Drug Free Schools Act and the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program, which Congress eliminated in 2015 in favor of state block grants with reduced funding levels under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), should be restored and fully funded.
- Reject proposals to arm educators as a way to curb gun violence in schools. NACAC members are trained to guide students through the transition to postsecondary education. In order for the educational enterprise to function properly, these professionals must not be sidetracked into a function that is best left to law enforcement officers. Moreover, research suggests that introducing more firearms into schools is likely to increase gun violence, not reduce it.
- Provide funding for school districts to hire additional school counselors. The current student-to-counselor ratio is 482-to-1 nationally, with ratios approaching 1,000-to-1 in some states. While policymakers speak of increasing attention to mental health in schools, little progress has been made in reducing student-to-counselor ratios nationally over the last 10 years. Decreasing this ratio is an opportunity to directly address the mental health of our students.
“For too long, our nation’s elected officials have avoided or delayed action on basic steps that would help restore safety to our classrooms,” Smith said. “NACAC is ready and willing to contribute to a serious, constructive effort to achieve this critical policy goal.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), founded in 1937, is an organization of more than 15,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. NACAC is committed to maintaining high standards that foster ethical and social responsibility among those involved in the transition process, as outlined in the association's Code of Ethics and Professional Practices.
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