On Friday, June 22, the Senate approved a comprehensive, bipartisan school safety bill that will dedicate significant new resources to help prevent school violence, according to State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf (R,12), who supported the measure.
Senate Bill 1142 would create the School Safety and Security Grant Program to distribute $60 million in new school safety funding that was included in the state budget. The new funding is in addition to the $10 million dedicated to an existing grant program created in 2013.
The two grant programs will provide funding for a variety of measures designed to improve student safety and reduce school violence, including:
- hiring school police officers, school resource officers, counselors and/or mental health counselors;
- alternative education and diversion programs;
- violence prevention initiatives;
- school safety and emergency preparedness plans;
- physical upgrades to school buildings and equipment to improve safety.
The legislation would also create a school threat reporting and monitoring system for students, teachers and community residents to anonymously report any unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities in schools. The new Safe2Say Program would be patterned after the Safe2Tell program that was created in Colorado in 1999 after the school shooting at Columbine.
The bill would also require the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to develop school safety assessment guidelines through creation of a new School Safety and Security Committee. The newly created committee would be made up of various experts in school safety, security and child behavior. These guidelines would offer a uniform approach to evaluating current security measures in every school building in Pennsylvania.
In addition, Senate Bill 1142 would require schools to provide employees with mandatory training on school safety and security. Annual safety assessments for schools will also be required.
The school safety measures included in Senate Bill 1142 are the first phase of the Senate’s efforts to protect students. Senate leaders announced that hearings will be scheduled this summer to gather input from various stakeholders regarding additional steps to improve school safety.
Senate Bill 1142 was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and was sent to the Governor to be signed into law.