After school shootings, are states making classrooms safer?
The shooting last May that killed 19 children and two teachers inside an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, led to pledges by governors in several states to make classrooms safer.
But their speed in following through has varied. Here’s a look at where school safety plans stand in several states as students return to school.
After the Uvalde shooting, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson reinstated a school safety commission he formed after the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Florida. The panel is expected to issue its final recommendations in October. The Legislature in August approved setting aside $50 million for a school safety grant program. The grants will be based on the recommendations of the commission, and the rules for how the funds will be distributed are being crafted.
In California, which already had some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a dozen more this legislative session. He also took out ads in Texas newspapers criticizing the state’s stances on guns. In July Newsom signed a gun control law that is patterned after a Texas anti-abortion law, allowing private citizens to sue in order to enforce the restrictions.
Lawmakers included $10 million in the budget for a school safety fund that was established in 2018 but had not received money in the past two fiscal years. Lawmakers also approved bipartisan legislation expanding the allowable uses of the school safety fund to include lockdown drills, school threat assessments, prevention training and the hiring of law enforcement personnel. The bill was introduced in late April, before the Uvalde shooting, and initially proposed only to allow the hiring of constables with money from the fund. The legislation did not receive a committee hearing until after the Uvalde shooting, and Democratic Gov. John Carney has yet to sign the bill, which received final approval in late June.
The Florida Legislature passed a bill in March that makes changes to the school safety law passed after a 2018 shooting at a Parkland high school that killed 17 people. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill June 7. The bill DeSantis signed directs the state Board of Education to adopt requirements for emergency drills, requires law enforcement to participate in active shooter school drills and requires school districts to certify 80% of school personnel complete youth mental health awareness training.
Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, announced in June the state is giving $2.6 million to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center to increase training capacity and classes for school resource officers. He said the state will use $1 million in federal money to enhance school protection efforts, including training staff and school resource officers. Local and state law enforcement agencies will be able to compete for $4.5 million in grants for school safety, use-of-force and de-escalation training, and mental health needs. The state is also seeking $3 million in federal grants to increase training and improve school climate.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill in August that requires the state’s nearly 600 school districts to set up threat assessment teams aimed at stemming violence in schools. The bill requiring the assessments was introduced two days after the Uvalde shooting. The measure goes into effect in the 2023-2024 school year.
Three days after the Uvalde shooting, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state would use $100 million in federal coronavirus relief funds for security upgrades in schools. In August, he announced more than 1,100 schools were being awarded $47 million of that money for upgrades such as security cameras, automatic door locks, visitor badging systems and exterior lighting. The remaining $53 million will be distributed to schools that apply in the future.
Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order a month after the Uvalde shooting aimed at helping prepare schools and law enforcement for mass shootings. It directs law enforcement officers to complete active shooter training. It also calls for the Oklahoma School Security Institute to provide risk assessments to every public and private primary and secondary school in the state. The order also directs school districts to put in use by September the Rave Panic Button, a phone application that allows teachers and staff to immediately notify law enforcement and other staff members of an emergency.
In Pennsylvania’s budget this year, lawmakers earmarked $200 million to address school safety and mental health, with $200,000 in base funding for each district to be split evenly between safety and mental health. The mental health funding is new to the budget this year. Funding was first established for the safety and security grants in 2018 after the shooting in Parkland. The money historically has been used for upgrading security — including adding cameras, safe entrances and personnel to school buildings.
Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed an executive order in June calling for more training and resources for school security. He has said his administration will boost resources for schools and law enforcement in the fall. Earlier this month, ahead of the new school year, Lee also encouraged parents to download a “SafeTN” app so they can confidentially report suspicious activity with schools.
Following the Uvalde shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott and other top Republican leaders announced the transfer of $105.5 million for school safety initiatives. Nearly half of that money was slated for bullet-resistant shields and $17.1 million was for districts to purchase silent panic-alert technology. The state also set aside $7 million for the state’s school safety center to conduct on-site assessments.
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