The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

April 9, 2013

Schools not doing enough to prevent violence, survey finds

WINDBER — With the Senate wrangling its way toward its first showdown vote Thursday on new gun restrictions, a local health advocacy program is showing leaders how those concerned about school violence feel.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention at Windber Research Institute on Tuesday released survey results from those participating in February’s public forum, “School and Community Safety: Lessons Learned from Sandy Hook.”

“The results of this survey ... are indeed enlightening and hopefully informative,” center Director Dr. Matthew Masiello said in the report’s executive summary.

“Enlightening, in that the message in this survey may be quite different from what our politicians and others are delivering to the public. Informative, in the hope that our legislators are listening and will use community data to support and direct them in their decision-making activities.”

Most of the those responding reported they own guns, but an even larger majority support tightened regulations.

Nearly half of the forum participants responded to the 27-question survey developed through discussions at the Feb. 7 event. Participants included law enforcement officers, educators, mental health workers, health-care workers, government representatives and concerned citizens.

“I think what it does show us is the community is quite involved in this subject,” Masiello said. “They are concerned about whether the politicians are representing them on this issue appropriately.”

Three out of four of those who responded felt politicians were not doing enough to keep children safe, and 91 percent said they want political leaders to be specific, not vague, about these issues, Masiello noted.

Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of the respondents have firearms in their homes, but 74 percent of the gun owners are not National Rifle Association members.

On issues addressed with proposed gun restrictions laws, most support tightened regulations.

Closing background check loopholes received the strongest support, at 95 percent in favor.

A ban on armor-piercing bullets gained 88 percent support and 81 percent supported funding for research on causes and prevention of gun violence, including research on possible links between video games, media images and violence.

The survey also touched on mental-health issues and school violence associated with bullying.

A whopping 98 percent support training for teachers and other youth workers to identify and respond to those with mental illness. There was also strong support, for spending more on mental-health screenings and treatment as a strategy to reduce gun violence, with 87 percent in favor.

A school-safety strategy of placing mental health workers in school districts gained 92 percent support, and 97 percent would like to see additional school resource officers or other safety officers in their districts.

Arming teachers was supported by 34 percent, with 58 percent opposed and 14 percent unsure. 

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