In response to the devastating increase in school shootings in the last few years, several states have introduced school security bills that focus on improving the safety of students and school staff. If you’re involved in school security planning, have children attending schools, or are a staff member, it’s critical to stay up to date on new state laws that could impact your school. As of February, states were considering nearly 250 pieces of legislation on security — and as the school year approaches, that number continues to increase. The specific priorities vary in each bill, but most touch on aspects of emergency preparedness, bullying, guns in school, and school resource officers. Here’s an overview of these latest school security bills and what they could mean for your school.
Shared Legislative Objectives
Of the most recent school security bills proposed, 85 of them focus on improving emergency preparedness. This means having an official school safety plan, practicing emergency drills, and perfecting systems meant to notify the parents in the event of an emergency. It also involves replacing existing doors with stronger one that include sturdier locks and installing metal detectors. A total of 43 states—as well as Washington, DC—now require schools to have an official safety plan in place, and 42 states require schools to regularly hold safety drills.
The second most common legislation includes specific changes for school resource officers. In particular, 71 bills feature measures to increase funding for these officers, improve their training, and allow them to carry guns. Currently, 30 states and Washington, DC allow officers to carry guns at school, and in eight states, teachers and staff are permitted to carry guns as long as they have received proper training. Some bills propose what may be viewed as more controversial ideas, such as eliminating the requirement that schools be gun-free zones and offering firearms training to teachers.
Finally, some legislative initiatives focus on reducing bullying in an effort to improve safety for all students. These bills introduce preventive measures that address hazing and cyberbullying and strive to increase the availability of school counseling for students.
Which States Have Recently Passed School Security Bills?
If you’re involved in school security, work on staff, or have children enrolled as students, it’s important to stay up to date and informed about new state laws that could affect your school. For example, SB 551 in Nevada seeks to increase funding to improve school security by authorizing 50 percent of the proceeds of tax in excess of the amount collected during fiscal year 2018-2019 to be used specifically to help pay for additional school police officers. The bill is also intended to help obtain additional funding for school social workers, safety improvements to school campuses, provide additional crisis response training, and more.
And that’s just one state. Several other states have been working on ways to pay for new school safety initiatives. In May, the state of Texas passed Senate Bill 11 that focuses on preventing and reducing the damage done by school shootings. The legislation emphasizes improving school mental health initiatives, implementing comprehensive emergency response training, utilizing new communication technologies, and creating threat assessment teams to help identify troubled or potentially violent students. The bill also mandates that school districts to have safety committees that meet at least twice each year to collaboratively work on emergency plans.
Of course, Texas and Nevada are just two examples of states that have recently passed legislation for improved school safety. Several other states have done the same. In fact, New York, Indiana, and Virginia account for over one-third of the school safety bills that have been introduced this year. It’s likely that your own state has certain school safety laws in place, some of which might be new. If you want to get familiar with them, check this list of the school safety policies in each state so you can stay updated on the regulations that affect your school.
Of course, if we can help you and your team understand and work through the process of developing a strategic plan around school security and/or navigating the changes any of these laws have created, we’d love to help.
You can also follow our blog to stay informed on the latest safety legislation, as the following are just a few posts on school safety:
School Security Enhancement Act: Bipartisan Goal of Keeping Kids Safe
Texas School Safety Bill—Comprehensive School Safety Program Proposed
Looking Back: What Columbine Taught Us About School Security