by Chris Heaton - Vice President for Advocacy and Public Affairs
In the wake of Parkland, Florida and the organized protests that followed, Congress is moving with several pieces of legislation that make substantial efforts to do something about the more immediate infrastructure improvements needed to address school safety.
Some bills were filed that address mental health awareness training, crisis intervention and personnel training to recognize potential signs of violence in students. And some bills that enhance physical security needs are currently under consideration in the Senate.
Some of the bills that take a proactive approach to enhancing physical security needs are currently under consideration in the Senate. S. 2495, the “STOP School Violence Act” is supported by ESA and several other stakeholder groups with various interests in school safety. This bill would provide close to $1 billion over the next 10 years to implement “evidence-based” security upgrades in schools, increase law enforcement presence and fund mental health initiatives.
H.R. 5138, the “Securing Children Schools Act of 2018” would provide grants of up to $500 million per year to state and local governments for the purchase of metal detectors and other screening technology for schools.
H.R. 5268, the “Safe Schools Act” would provide grants to schools for increased security, including school resource officers, infrastructure improvements for security equipment, controlled access and measures to prevent guns from entering school campuses.
H.R. 5307, the “STEP Act of 2018 would provide $50 million from unobligated funds from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 for barricade technology, surveillance technology, active shooter alarms, training and vulnerability assessments.
S. 2513, the “School Safety and Mental Health Services Improvement Act of 2018” would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 by providing funds to support school safety and prevent violence through infrastructure improvements to physical security and provide services that assist school administrators and teachers with mental health awareness and crisis intervention programs. This bill specifically calls for improvements to facility security measures including,
(A) physical improvements to the school to prevent and deter unauthorized access to the school, including locks, double entry systems, hardened entrances, and interior and exterior video surveillance systems;
(B) security doors, automatic locks, security glass, alarm systems, metal detectors, and sensor systems;
(C) emergency communications systems, including wireless and geographically precise mobile alert systems;
(D) perimeter fencing;
(E) emergency exit systems;
(F) duress or panic systems;
(G) emergency tip lines; and
(H) any other physical improvements where the primary purpose is to improve or enhance school safety.
Bills such as these provide hope that Congress will lead with meaningful funding to assist state and local jurisdictions with school safety needs and address the more immediate need to make schools safer in the near term.