That school safety legislation? Give it an asterisk | Arkansas Blog

Monday, March 19, 2018

That school safety legislation? Give it an asterisk

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 10:59 AM

The House last week passed the STOP School Violence Act and members of Congress are spraining arms patting themselves on the back.

Take Republican U.S. Rep. French HIll:

Central Arkansas families deserve to know that their kids are safe and secure at school, especially in light of the recent horrible tragedy in Parkland, Florida. As a father of a current high school and college student, this issue hits close to home.

I have listened to students, families, schools, and organizations in central Arkansas on matters regarding school safety, and I'm working with my colleagues in Congress and local schools to implement measures that will help save innocent lives.

No parent, teacher, or child should ever fear for their safety at school. It makes no sense that we protect our airports, homes, and businesses, but don’t adequately protect our own kids at school.

We took action in the House this week by passing the STOP School Violence Act. This bill dedicates $75 million to strengthening protocols, training, and other vital components of school security. This includes training students, teachers, school officials, and local law enforcement how to identify and intervene early when signs of violence arise, creates a coordinated reporting system, and implements FBI and Secret Service-based school threat assessment protocols to prevent school shootings before they happen.
Two things:

1) This bill was introduced before the Parkland shooting, but action was speeded up afterward. Even the NRA supported it because it gave Congress something tangible that had NOTHING to do with gun safety.

2) It doesn't go far. Arkansas, for example, gets $1 million for its 288 school districts, maybe enough to hire and equip a modestly paid resource officer for a few dozen of them Education Week has taken a long look at the cost of school security and what this legislation would contribute and the bottom line is clear — not very much.

Last October, the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) released a series of cost estimates for schools that want to reach four different levels of security and safety. The Security Industry Association and the National Systems Contractors Association, both industry groups that prepared the estimates for PASS, listed a series of improvements schools could make to get from Tier 1—the basic level—to Tier 4, the top level of security for schools according to PASS.

Let's start at the top. Here are a few of the measures PASS says a school needs in order to have "Tier 4" security:

Bullet-resistant glass;
Gated parking with card-based access;
Mobile applications for video surveillance;
Visitors who are pre-enrolled in a school's system;
Emergency notifications that are integrated with weather and fire alerts.

That assumes a school already has upgrades required to reach the first three tiers, including prerequisites to reach Tier 1 like perimeter signage, self-adhesive visitor badges, and security policies and procedures, up through setting up video surveillance in all common areas and equipping staff with two-way radios.

So when you add up all the prerequisities to become a Tier 4 school what's the cost? It depends on the type of school, but here are the two specific estimates from PASS:

K-8: $312,241

High School: $539,388

So Arkansas got enough for one K-8 and one high school, presuming they were already up to tier three protection. Another $130 million and it can get the whole job down, Education Week figures.

French Hill DID say this was just a "first step."

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