Washington, D.C. – Dr. David Osher, a vice president with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and a nationally recognized expert on creating safe school environments, testified on Wednesday before the U.S House of Representatives’ Education and Workforce Committee and cautioned there are no “quick fixes or easy solutions” to addressing safety issues like the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Connecticut.
“Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes or easy solutions to respond to the tragedy at Sandy Hook – or any of the other school shootings that have abruptly altered so many lives,” Osher said in prepared remarks to the lawmakers. “But there are steps we can take to change the school environment so that students and teachers feel safe.”
Osher cited AIR’s work in Cleveland, which began in response to a 2007 incident in which a 14-year-old student shot two teachers and two students and then took his own life. Working with city officials, leaders of the public school system, the teachers union and community organizations, a strategy was developed to create a safer environment for teachers and students while improving the quality of education being provided.
During his presentation, Osher cited examples from a report released last month, “Avoid Simple Solutions and Quick Fixes: Improving Conditions for Learning,” comparing the 2008-2009 school year to the 2010-2011 year in Cleveland:
- The attendance rate district-wide increased 1.5 percentage points.
- Out-of-school suspensions decreased 58.8 percent district wide.
- There were statistically significant decreases in the average number of reported behavioral incidents per school. Disobedient/disruptive behavior went from 131.8 to 73.9 per school, and the average number of cases involving fighting/violence went from 54.5 to 36.4.
“Cleveland provides an example of what is possible, even in hard times, and even under less than perfect conditions for implementing student centered policies, which reduce school removal, drop out, and the pipeline to prison,” Osher said.
Others appearing before the committee included: Bill Bond, school safety specialist for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Paducah, Ky.; Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, Hoover, Ala.; Brett Bontrager, senior vice president and group executive for Stanley Black & Decker, Indianapolis, Ind.; Frederick Ellis, director of the Fairfax County Public Schools' Office of Safety and Security, Falls Church, Va.; and Vincent Pompei, school counselor of the Val Verde Unified School District, San Diego, Calif.
Dr. Osher serves as Principal Investigator for The Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health, as well as The National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At Risk, and The National Center on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments. His work focuses on collaboration; children’s services; prevention; social emotional learning; youth development; the social and emotional conditions for learning, teaching, and healthy development; and culturally competent interventions for children and youth with mental health problems and disorders and their families.
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit www.air.org.