U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, joined by 21 other Senators, introduced a bill March 3 that would allocate funds to increase safety precautions in schools.
The Student, Teachers and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018 would authorize funding to train law enforcement, school personnel and students on how to identify warning signs and intervene before school violence happens. The legislation also would establish an anonymous tip line and improve school security infrastructure.
The bill would amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 that furthers school security procedures and would reestablish the Secure Our Schools Act grant program that awards funds.
The proposed bill comes in response to the ongoing public outcry against gun violence in schools. The current movement was spurred by the Parkland, Fla., shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead.
The bill passed March 14 with few objections in the House of Representatives and has been received by the Senate, who read the bill twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
This legislation is essential to combatting school violence before it occurs, with the training of school officials at the forefront of the resolution, Cornyn stated in a press release.
All of the families of the Parkland, Fla., victims support the bill, Libby Hambleton, Cornyn’s Texas Deputy Press Secretary, stated.
A letter signed by all 17 of the victims’ families to congressional leaders stated, “frankly, much more needs to be done to prevent a mass murder from ever occurring at any school. This issue cannot wait. The moment to consider these key pieces of legislation is now.”
Kathy Martinez-Prather, Texas School Safety Center Director, is tasked with ensuring Texas public schools are kept up-to-date with security training, protocols and research. She said the ability to identify a student in distress and in danger of harming themselves or other is very important.
“You can never do enough to prepare our schools; there is always more you can do,” Martinez-Prather said. “I think by-and-large our schools are doing well when it comes to school safety. Texas has never seen something as catastrophic as Columbine, Sandy Hook and the Florida shooting, but you can never become complacent. It is not a matter of if it’s going to happen but when something like this is going to happen.”
Andrew Fernandez, San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District Executive Director of Communications and Community Relations, said SMCISD is ahead of the curve in preventing school violence.
“As a district, if students feel safe and employees feel well supported, that is when the best learning can take place,” Fernandez said. “Yes, learning is important. It’s our top priority as well, but we need our students to feel safe.”
Fernandez said the district’s mobile app includes a service called STOP!T, which allows students to submit anonymous tips concerning illegal or improper behavior. The tips are received by all campus and district administrators.
Fernandez also said every SMCISD secondary school has a school resource officer and maintains a partnership with San Marcos Police Department, which regularly brings police officers to campuses.
President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the S.T.O.P. Act.
“Today the House took major steps toward securing our schools by passing the S.T.O.P. School Violence Act,” Trump tweeted. “We must put the safety of America’s children FIRST by improving training and by giving schools and law enforcement better tools. A tragedy like Parkland can’t happen ever again!”
Appropriations for the bill would include $75 million for the 2018 fiscal year and $100 million for the upcoming 10 years.