U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney was intrigued by this question: Is the school safety debate all about infrastructure or does it run deeper?
He hesitated. Then the 2nd District Democrat became animated.
"Some do not think the federal government should be involved in the schools at all," Courtney said. "But I wrote to Rep. John Kline (the Minnesota Republican who chairs the Education and the Workforce Committee). He has a tough caucus, but in my letter I mentioned that the incident in Connecticut has obviously heightened parents' and educators' concerns about whether the schools need more help."
"It took a while, but his staff said he would make a commitment for committee hearings," Courtney said.
Courtney is serving as the top Democrat on the Education and Workforce Committee’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee.
He said it is still unclear what direction Kline might take the committee in terms of federal assistance for school security infrastructure projects.
One direction in which the Democrats want to move points toward school-based health clinics. He toured a school in New London this week to promote the concept and is following a decision in Vernon to put together a request for proposal to set one up.
"School-based health clinics are helpful," he said. "They are pretty solid programs that involve school psychology, counseling, and those types of services."
Courtney continued, "It is as important as infrastructure. It can target young people. a group that has a pretty high concentration of illness. School-based health centers have staff, but you canals also refer students to adolescent psychiatrists in more complex cases."
The premise, Courtney said, is to help with, "Identifying kids who are struggling." He paused. "Who are … ill."
Courtney said even the National Rifle Association is behind the concept of mental health services. He said it was still early to tell what type of funding might be available for school-based health clinics.
"But this is a real opportunity to get people working together," Courtney said.