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Legislators Support Bill to Strengthen School Safety

March 14, 2018, 8:14 AM HST (Updated March 14, 2018, 8:14 AM)
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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawai‘i-02) spoke on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, in support of H.R.4909, the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act—legislation she has co-sponsored that would increase federal funding for schools in Hawai’i and across the country to strengthen school violence prevention measures.

The bill authorizes federal funding for: 1) increased investment in training students, teachers, other school personnel and local law enforcement officers on how to identify warning signs of potential violence at a school and how to intervene to prevent people from hurting themselves or others; 2) better coordination between schools and local law enforcement; and 3) school security measures, including use of metal detectors, locks, lighting and other deterrent measures at schools, security assessments of schools, and security training of school personnel and students. This funding may not be used for arming teachers and school personnel, or training in the use of a firearm.

Key provisions of the STOP School Violence Act, relating to providing funding for more schools to use proven school violence prevention strategies, were developed by Sandy Hook Promise. Sandy Hook Promise was founded by families who lost a child in the Sandy Hook mass shooting in 2012. The nonprofit’s mission is to prevent gun violence before it happens by educating and mobilizing youth and adults to identify, intervene, and get help for at-risk individuals.

In a speech on the House floor, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said:

“It’s been one month since the tragic shooting in Parkland, and today students in Hawai‘i and all across the country are joining hands and raising their voices to honor the 17 lives lost on that day and the 7,000 children whose lives have been lost since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook. They are walking out today to demand action that will help to prevent these tragedies and improve the safety and security of our schools.

“Later today, we are going to be voting on a bill that I’ve co-sponsored: the Stop School Violence Act. This bill or any other single bill is not going to solve everything, but it will help prevent school violence by implementing measures developed after Sandy Hook that supports training for teachers, students, school personnel, and local law enforcement to better identify early warning signs of violence and increases coordination between schools and local law enforcement.

“In addition, we also need to take action on things like closing the gun show and online loopholes and requiring universal background checks for anyone seeking to purchase a gun. These are provisions that have overwhelming bipartisan support both here in Congress and across the country. The time for action is long overdue. Let’s bring these bills to the floor for a vote.”

The STOP School Violence Act (H.R.4909) would:

Authorize the Bureau of Justice Assistance within the Department of Justice to make grants to states for evidence-based school safety programs that may include the following 10 purposes:

  1. Evidence-based training in schools for students, teachers, other school personnel, and local law enforcement officers on how to identify warning signs of a potential threat of violence and how to appropriately intervene to stop interpersonal violence and suicide. By building a culture in which students and teachers understand the importance of identifying possible threats of violence, this bill can help save lives and help keep our communities safe.
  2. The development and operation of anonymous reporting systems for students to alert local law enforcement to a potential threat. One example of such an anonymous reporting system is the Safe Utah smartphone app. The Safe Utah app is a statewide service in Utah that provides real-time crisis intervention to youth through texting and a confidential tip program. Since the Safe Utah app was unveiled in 2016, 86 planned school attacks in Utah have been stopped.
  3. The development and operation of school threat assessment and intervention teams that may include coordination with law enforcement agencies and school personnel, and specialized training for school officials in responding to mental health crises.
  4. Better coordination between schools and local law enforcement.
  5. Placement and use of metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures.
  6. Security assessments.
  7. Security training of school personnel and students.
  8. Subgrants to state or local law enforcement agencies, schools, school districts, nonprofit organizations, or Indian tribal organizations to implement grants awarded under the bill.
  9. Acquisition and installation of technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency.
  10. Any other measure that, in the determination of the Director of the DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance, may provide a significant improvement in school security.

The measure stipulates that no amounts provided as a grant under this bill may be used for the provision to any person of a firearm or training in the use of a firearm.

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The bill authorizes $75 million a year over the next 10 years for evidence-based school security programs, while stipulating that $50 million a year of the $75 million total must be used only for the following two purposes of the 10 purposes outlined in the bill:

  1. Evidence-based training in schools for the students, teachers, other school personnel, and local law enforcement officers on how to identify warning signs of a potential threat of violence and how to appropriately intervene to stop interpersonal violence and suicide. By building a culture in which students and teachers understand the importance of identifying possible threats of violence, this bill can help save lives and help keep our communities safe.
  2. Better coordination between schools and local law enforcement.
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