Duncan Addresses School Safety During Promise Neighborhoods Announcement

Duncan Giving Speech

Secretary Arne Duncan spoke on the importance of school safety at a Promise Neighborhoods grant announcement. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

In his first public comments since last week’s Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke on the importance of school safety at the Neval Thomas Elementary School in Washington, D.C., at an event where he also announced the 17 winners of the 2012 Promise Neighborhoods $60 million grant fund.

“No one should ever have to go through what [Newtown] is going through,” Duncan said during a speech that was preceded by a moment of silence. “They are strong. They are resilient. They are united. But they will be forever changed,” he said.

On Wednesday, Duncan traveled to Newtown, Conn., to talk privately with teachers and school staff from Sandy Hook Elementary School and to attend the wake for principal Dawn Hochsprung.

“We have to make sure we learn from this awful tragedy as communities and as a nation,” Duncan said during today’s speech. “Every community needs to appraise its values and look at whether the community, parents, business leaders, faith-based leaders, political leaders, and schools are doing all that they can to keep our nation’s children safe from harm.”

Neval Thomas Students

Students at Neval Thomas Elementary School in DC perform during today's event. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Secretary Duncan said that in the coming weeks he is planning to visit schools and communities—in cities, suburbs, and rural areas—to talk about gun control and school safety. On Wednesday, President Obama named Duncan to a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden to identify concrete proposals by January for reducing the epidemic of gun violence.

Promise Neighborhoods

Promise Neighborhoods are cradle-to-career initiatives that call on all parts of the community to provide comprehensive wraparound supports to surround good schools, such as high-quality early learning, rich after-school activities, mental health services, and crime prevention.

More than 200 applicants applied for this round of Promise Neighborhood grants. “The hunger for this kind of work in the nation is huge,” Duncan said.

“So many communities are eager today to provide equal access and support to disadvantaged children. So many communities are desperate to replace the cradle-to-prison pipeline with a cradle-to-career pipeline.”

Promise Neighborhood grants are important, Duncan said, because they engage the entire community—asking everyone to work together and to take responsibility for helping children.

Click here to read more about the announcement and for a list of today’s 17 winners, and read a transcript of Secretary Duncan’s speech.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education


  1. I have read several reports of certain US States taking effective action in training and supporting programs of self-defense involving disarming attackers who have guns. Arming schoolteachers is expensive, and potentially lethal (guns could go off accidentally around schoolchildren).
    Public allocations of money might also include onsite walk-in and drive-in accessibility controls such as electronically-monitored fences for the entire and whole school perimeter and hidden or exposed affordable metal detectors at school entrances and at rear and maintenance entrances that cost much less than guns and ammunition and weapons registrations and can actively deter break-ins by potentially armed people during school hours. If someone were to bypass the front office upon entering a school, with the camera system, and metal and gunmetal detector systems, (weaponsmaker code) actively monitored from inside the office, it could make the situation less deadly if the cameras were aimed in the right directions.

  2. It is time that we seek ways to prevent children and adults from getting to a point in their lives where they are so deteriorated in their thinking that they would reach for a gun or any weapon and harm others. We must utilize proven – caring, systems of training children from the start – from birth and throughout school – to feel connected to those around them, to learn to cooperate – to discover and share their talents – to care for one another. Let us reach out to those who are isolated and hurting.

    • When ye rise to slaughter evil, as a result of that slaughter evil spawns.
      You have no right to control others by coersive measures.

  3. This tragedy underscores the need to reinstate the Safe Schools, Healthy Students initiative, which addresses school safety, substance abuse, and mental health issues in the K-12 school system.

  4. We cannot protect ourselves from every tragedy. I am concerned that so many are reflexively talking about more gates and guns instead of investing in things that improve a child’s and community’s healthy development and success – attention to mental health, small classes and valued teachers. A community’s ability to avert and recover from tragedy depends on these foundations of good education. If “guns don’t shoot people”, but “people shoot people” we need to do our utmost to nurture a community of healthy, responsible, ethical people we would implicitly trust with such weapons.

  5. Idea for school security:

    Bullet-proof reception office inside main entrance.
    Bullet-proof doors on all interior spaces that house students.
    Electronic locks on all doors centrally controlled at the reception office.
    Visitor access limited to main entrance.

  6. Safety recommendation: Why not make all education campuses limited-access from the front gate? Instead of having police/security in the building, just have an officer at a front gate like gated neighborhoods. The only people allowed on campus would be those with a pre-approved pass and no one else.

  7. I am writing, as I am sure many have, to voice my concern about such events as the recent killing of children and adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. This seems to be a growing and horrific problem.

    While I do believe that assault weapons need to be regulated, I think that there are other parts of the solution that involve schools. From 1980 to 1993 I was a mental health counselor in a K-3 school. After years of budget cuts in education this kind of position is probably unheard of. I say that sadly, because I believe that they were an important part of preventing such tragedies.

    School counselors/social workers, in our district, were part of the educational system, teaching social and coping skills, and anger management to all students. They were also important “first responders” to minor problems and were able to help identify mental illness and home-based problems and help provide or find needed sevices for the children and/or parents. Many times the difficulties were identified as early as kindergarten. Research has shown that if such help is not found by the end of third grade it has little chance of improving the problems significantly.

    Is this a topic that could be addressed? I think it is very important to the solution of horrific killings in and out of the schools.

    • Good point! I have thought myself about possibly more mental health screenings for school aged children to prevent such tragedies like Colombine and Sandy Hook. Unfortunately it seems budget cuts are everywhere.

  8. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has conducted numerous training seminars for educators and others on the topics of school shootings, video game and media impact on violence, preparedness, etc. Among other books, he wrote “On Killing,” which was nominated for a Pulitzer. Lt. Col. Grossman is very articulate, concise, and passionate. I highly recommend his expertise in this critical area.

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