More armed security officers in US schools, study finds

WASHINGTON — Armed security officers are becoming more prevalent at America’s schools, according to a federal study released Thursday amid a heated debate over whether teachers and other school officials should carry guns.

While student and staff fatalities at school persist, students report fewer instances of violence, theft and other abuse during the past decade, the survey found.

Armed officers were present at least once a week in 43 percent of all public schools during the 2015-16 school year, compared with 31 percent of schools a decade before, according to data from a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Last month’s mass shooting at a Florida high school put renewed focus on the role of armed school security guards, after a video showed that a sheriff’s deputy at the school approached but did not enter the building where the attack was taking place.

The study was released a day after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos kicked off a federal school safety panel, which has been criticized for not including teachers, students and experts. It comprises DeVos and three other Cabinet secretaries. DeVos told the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that the panel will include the secretaries of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and the Justice Department. The first meeting of the commission was held behind closed doors and few details were released.

DeVos said in a statement Thursday that while there were some positive trends in the survey, “we know — and tragically have been reminded in recent weeks — there is much more to be done to keep our nation’s students and teachers safe at school.” DeVos said commission members will travel across the country to look for solutions to school violence.

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