Senate Committee Passes Bill to Provide Grants for School Safety Improvements

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted yesterday to pass legislation designed to provide grants to local communities and schools throughout the United States to improve safety within the schools. The School Safety Enhancements Act of 2013 (S.146) is sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D – Calif.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R – Maine).

If passed by the entire congress, the bill would provide for $40 million annually for safety improvements and security assessments for the nation’s schools. Local schools would apply for “Secure Our School” grants through the Justice Department.

The legislation also would create an interagency task force that would “develop and promulgate a set of advisory school safety guidelines,” according to the text of the bill.

The act would require that the funds be used “as an effective means for improving the safety of one or more schools.” Additionally, those applying for the grants would be required to show that the plans for the funds are “consistent with a comprehensive approach to preventing school violence and individualized to the needs of each school at which those improvements are to be made.”

“Protecting our children and our grandchildren from harm should be our number-one priority,” says Sen. Boxer. “This bipartisan bill would give local communities and schools the opportunity to benefit from new resources and tools to help keep their students safe.”

“The Secure our Schools Grant Program helps state and local governments work in close partnership to improve school safety, protect our students, and create a safe learning environment,” adds Sen. Collins. “It is vital that community law enforcement professionals and agencies are adequately supported in their mission to keep our schools and communities safe.”

The bill was introduced to in January—just one month after an armed gunman entered a school in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six adults. The gunman is reported to have entered the school by shooting through a glass window near the school’s entrance, leading many to consider whether bullet-resistant glass may be implemented more in schools in the future.

Since that time, a number of school systems across the country have looked into implementing bullet-resistant glass in future plans, along with security film and other options. However, many  have cited cost as the main item prohibiting such efforts.

Among these, West Virginia legislators have asked state officials there to budget for installing bullet-resistant glass as they renovate and build new schools, according to local reports. However, according to the same report, the state’s school building authority executive director Mark Anthony Manchin has questioned the cost of such efforts and has suggested installing window film as an alternative on the glass at the front entrances of all new schools.

“Bulletproof [sic] is just simply not feasible to put in all of our schools, but shatter-resistant [sic]  is,” Manchin is quoted as saying.

[Manchin] has evidently decided that a child is not worth a piece of laminated  glass … and an outer layer of film?,” asks industry representative Bob Lang in response to the reports about West Virginia schools. “Can it really stop bullets? I didn’t know such a film was available.”

Similarly, a school in Sequoyah County, Okla., recently had a security film installed as part of similar efforts to secure the school after the Connecticut tragedy.

Meanwhile, in Southington, Conn., officials began reconsidering plans for glass doors at two new local middle schools shortly after the incident. Middle school building committee vice chair Chris Palmieri told the architectural firm designing the schools that it might make sense “to reconsider what we are using for external doors,” according to a local report.

School officials in Riverdale, Ill., also were looking at bullet-resistant glass for the entrance of a local elementary school due to safety concerns, but had tabled the discussion due to costs, according to a WBHF-TV report.

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