Posted on March 7, 2018
WASHINGTON, March 7 — A group of 13 senators today introduced legislation to allow 100,000 public schools to improve school safety by using federal dollars for school counselors, alarm systems, security cameras and crisis intervention training.
The School Safety & Mental Health Services Improvement Act was introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Corker (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Todd Young (R-IN).
“We have drafted this legislation to help states and communities keep schools safe. Safe schools are for the most part a local responsibility, but in this case, the federal government can and should help. One way to do this is to give states and local school boards the authority to use federal dollars in different ways to make schools safer. For example, this bill would allow Tennessee to use federal dollars to upgrade school safety procedures, hire school counselors and develop mental health programs,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate education and health committee and sponsor of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 and 21st Century Cures Act of 2016.
Senator Blunt said: “Protecting our schools and keeping kids safe is a top priority. As state and local governments look at ways to improve school safety, it is imperative the federal government does its part to support their efforts. This bill provides state and local governments the flexibility they need to dedicate resources toward improving access to mental health care and strengthening school safety infrastructure. The legislation marks an important step toward protecting our students, teachers, and school administrators, and I urge all of my colleagues to support it.”
Senator Cassidy said: “This bill gives schools more resources to address students’ mental health issues and upgrade school safety features. Students should focus on learning, not fear for their safety. This bill makes students more secure.
Senator Collins said: “It is imperative that we take action to ensure that schools are a safe learning environment. Our legislation would assist communities seeking to upgrade infrastructure and technology to improve school safety. It would also invest in mental health programs so that students have access to the services they need. I urge my colleagues to support this bill, which is one of many commonsense steps we can take to reduce gun violence.”
Senator Corker said: “We should look closely at everything that can be done to keep our schools and communities safe. This legislation will ensure states and local school boards have the flexibility they need to use the money they receive from the federal government in ways they deem most appropriate. I thank Senator Alexander for his leadership and am glad to join him in this effort. I also am a proud cosponsor of the Fix NICS Act and agree with President Trump that we should ban bump stocks. The American people are demanding solutions, and while these are only first steps, it is my hope that Congress will soon reach agreement on several of these items and take action to protect our children.”
Senator Cornyn said: “Children deserve to have their schools serve as safe havens where they can feel both protected and supported. By giving state and local school boards flexibility to direct funds towards safety and mental health programs, this legislation is an important step towards helping our children feel safer and increasing access to the mental health resources they may need.”
Senator Grassley said: “Students should not only feel safe at school, but they should be safe at school. Making federal resources available so schools can upgrade their security and mental health programs and infrastructure is an important way of making all of our students safer. I’m glad to join a bill that will do exactly that. This is a commonsense measure that will help communities and schools prevent future tragedy.”
Senator Isakson said: “Keeping our schools safe requires a multi-pronged approach and all of us working together at the local, state and federal levels. The School Safety and Mental Health Services Improvement Act would provide schools with the necessary flexibility to offer stronger security measures and better address mental health issues.”
Senator Roberts said: “Recent tragedies make it imperative we do more to keep our children safe in school. This bill is a step forward by providing schools with additional resources they need to improve safety measures. It gives local schools the ability to determine what their individual needs are, and allows them to use federal funding for security and mental health improvements. This includes better alarm systems and increased counseling and mental health training. I thank Chairman Alexander for his leadership on this issue and hope we can move this legislation forward quickly to get resources in place.”
Senator Rubio said: “While we focus on federal action to help prevent future attacks like Parkland, we must ensure that our local public school districts are given some flexibility in deciding how to safeguard their schools. This bill will allow 100,000 public schools to upgrade school security by using federal funds for measures such as school counselors, alarm systems, and training to respond to any crisis. Washington may provide the federal resources, but local communities optimally know how to utilize them to install school-specific safety measures.”
Senator Scott said: “Ensuring schools have the resources they need to upgrade their infrastructure is an important step we can take to keeping our students and schools safe. This will allow schools across South Carolina to use federal dollars for mental health programs, security updates and more. As we continue to work towards solutions on this important topic, I want to thank Senator Alexander and my colleagues on the HELP Committee for their work on this issue.”
Senator Young said: “We must ensure our schools have the resources needed to keep students safe and prevent another horrible tragedy like Parkland from occurring. By encouraging school safety infrastructure upgrades, more school counselors and mental health professionals, and improved communication, this legislation is one commonsense approach to helping keep our kids safe.”
There are 100,000 public schools in the United States and state and local governments provide about 90 percent of public schools’ funding, but the federal government can and should help create an environment for communities, school boards and states to create safer schools.
Under The School Safety & Mental Health Services Improvement Act, the federal government can help in the following four ways:
- encourages more school counselors and other mental health professionals
- encourages school safety infrastructure upgrades
- encourages the development of mental health programs for crisis intervention training and mental health assessments
- creates a presidential task force to increase interagency communication