Hello and welcome to another edition of the weekly roundup. The nation’s eyes have been on students this week, so let’s check in.
National student walkout
On March 14, a month after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, K-12 students all over the country walked out of class to protest gun violence. Many chose to leave for 17 minutes, one for each of those killed in the Parkland, Fla., attack. NPR also reported on the songs they sang in protest. A march on Washington is planned for next Saturday.
Teachers oppose carrying guns
Almost three out of four teachers oppose the idea of being armed at school, according to a new Gallup poll. And 58 percent say that teachers and staff carrying guns would make schools less safe.
DeVos will head school safety commission
On March 11, President Trump appointed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to a new Federal Commission on School Safety.
After appearances on 60 Minutes and the Today show, for which DeVos was criticized for seeming ill-informed, she provided more details to the National Parent Teacher Association conference on Tuesday.
DeVos advocated some measures that have also been endorsed by a large number of experts on school climate and mental health. These include two that involve the supply of weapons: strengthening background checks for gun buyers and a measure called temporary extreme risk protection orders to take away a firearm if the police perceive an imminent threat.
DeVos also included a call to back the proposed STOP School Violence Act, which provides states with money for training, technology and technical assistance, including “threat assessment” teams.
She also backed ideas that many scholars oppose, such as arming teachers and “hardening” schools through things like metal detectors. As part of the commission, the White House has called for a reconsideration of Obama-era student discipline guidance. This sets up a debate over the use of suspensions, expulsions and student arrests — and the impact of these tactics on racial equity and access to education.
College students surveyed on the First Amendment
A survey of 3,000 college students nationwide by Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (which is among NPR’s financial supporters) found strong support for free speech, but also concern about the spread of hate speech and the need for diversity and inclusion.
Students’ confidence in freedom of speech and the press is declining. Sixty-four percent of respondents told pollsters that freedom of speech is secure in this country, down from 73 percent in a 2016 survey on the same topic. Sixty percent, down from 81 percent, say freedom of the press is secure. This slide was concentrated among students who identify as Democrats and independents.
When it came to restrictions on free speech, while 90 percent of college students say it is never acceptable to use violence to prevent someone from speaking, 37 percent agreed it was acceptable to shout people down at least sometimes.
And 80 percent of students agreed that the Internet has been responsible for a significant increase in hate speech.
Another state takes steps toward free community college
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned last year on a promise to offer community college to all of his state’s residents, for free, by 2021. Murphy, a Democrat, took office in January and this week announced a budget proposal that included what he called a “down payment” on the plan. It includes $50 million for low-income students to attend community college. Four states — Tennessee, Oregon, New York and Rhode Island — already offer students free community college. Many others have similar plans in the works.
The budget proposal also includes additional funding for pre-K through 12th grade, with an emphasis on expanding pre-K access and STEM programs in New Jersey.
School travel-time study
Anyone who commutes knows that travel time makes a huge difference. And when kids live far from their schools, long travel time can add to students’ stress and significantly affect families.
A new, big study by the Urban Institute this week shed light on how students get to school and how long it takes for them to arrive.
The study examined students in Denver, Detroit, New Orleans, New York City and Washington, D.C. — all areas with many choices beyond neighborhood schools, such as charters or vouchers.
The results? Most commutes to school are shorter than 20 minutes. High school students in the study traveled slightly farther than those in middle and elementary. The researchers also found that African-American students consistently travel farther to get to school than their white or Latino peers.
“Access to a car can significantly increase the number of schools available to a family,” the researchers concluded, and they suggested that transportation options like busing should be considered when drafting school choice plans.