In March, nearly a month after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act. The Act is essentially a renewal of the COPS Secure Our Schools grant program that provided funding from the Department of Justice for schools to upgrade school security measures.
The STOP School Violence Act is still sitting in the Senate’s court for a final vote, but if passed, it would appropriate $50 million per year for ten years that schools can apply for to be put toward developing threat assessment systems, anonymous reporting systems, and improving security through the use of technologies and increased personnel.
The bill is bipartisan, which is an unusual, yet welcome, development for community leaders, school administrators and law enforcement, as it takes steps to address some of the missing pieces in emergency response and preparedness protocols by improving training and potentially providing access to technologies like Rapid Emergency Response Systems (RERS) that can drastically improve law enforcement response times to schools in armed intruder incidents.
Following the introduction and passage of the bill in the House, several states enacted either grant opportunities or budget earmarks for school security improvements. While we await the next steps from the Senate, we decided to take a look at two states who have taken proactive approaches to getting schools the funding to make critical security improvements.
Last month, Wisconsin announced the creation of a $100 million school safety fund by the state Department of Justice. Schools in the state will be able to apply for grants if they meet certain criteria. In order to be eligible schools must do two things:
- Develop a plan with local law enforcement
- Provide full-time teachers, aides, counselors and admin training in trauma services by the end of the 2018-19 school year.
For many of the schools in the state, the grant fund is an opportunity to implement security measures and improve emergency response plans that previously may not have had the necessary funding. At BluePoint, we advocate heavily for preparedness, and part of that preparedness comes with ensuring that schools have the funding to create actionable plans for emergency response.
Colorado’s state government wrote a $35 million school safety amendment into the state’s 2018-19 budget. However, unlike the Wisconsin grant program, the use of the extra funding is slightly more stringent. Chalkbeat Colorado writes that the budget “could be used for physical improvements to facilities that improve security and for ‘resource security officers.’”
However, later in the article, they specify that the funding will not include the hiring of additional resource officers; rather, it will focus on training existing officers.
The funding – which is a one-time provision – is still awaiting final approval. In 2014, Weld Central High school, in Keenesburg, Colo. (northeast of Denver), installed BluePoint’s RERS, deeming it cost-effective and valuable. Just this month, according to Weld RE-3J school district superintendent Greg Rabenhorst, the district installed BluePoint’s RERS in the rest of its buildings, which includes three elementary schools, one charter school and one middle school.
For schools looking to use the potential funding allocation effectively, security technology like Rapid Emergency Response Systems – which are wireless and require no additional construction to install – could be an ideal solution.
- Florida – Passed $400 million to retrofit schools with bulletproof glass and other security technologies. Part of the bill also was to arm school employees (not teachers).
- New Mexico – Governor Susana Martinez signed legislation on March 7 to spend $40 million over four years on grants for school districts to harden infrastructure.
- Texas – Republican Rep. Roger Williams introduced HR 5107 which would create a grant program under the DOE to keep schools safe and directs the DOE's secretary to allocate funds after a school submits an application based upon requirements from the DOE.
While most of the school safety funding opportunities listed here (STOP School Violence and Colorado) are still awaiting final approval, it bodes well for communities around the country that attention is being paid to proactive responses to school safety. As more funding becomes available, emergency response resources like RERS technology, law enforcement programs and hardening tools will be able to effectively implemented in schools.