Senate Committee Passes Bill to Provide Grants for School Safety Improvements

March 14th, 2013 by DWM Magazine

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday 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 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 in 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 is just simply not feasible to put in all of our schools, but shatter-resistant 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.

“Looking at the total picture and all of the things that we’ve been doing and considering doing in regards to school safety, [bullet-resistant glass] is just one other consideration,” Riverdale School District superintendent Ron Jacobs, is quoted as saying in the report.

Officials in Brookings, S.D., also are exploring the possibility of installing laminated glass in school entrances over the next few years. “We feel we need to keep an intruder outside for somewhere around 60 seconds prior to police officers being on site,” Brookings superintendent Roger DeGroot said in a local report.

Consumers also have called on school officials across the United States to bulk up safety in light of the safety and many have noted bullet-resistant and laminated glass as a specific need.

“Doors that have glass next to locks should be replaced with laminated glass,” wrote consumer Malcom Rose of Philomath, Texas, in a January 29 letter to the editor that appeared in the Gazette-Times. The letter was titled “Simple Security Steps Could Enhance School Safety.”

Another, James Daggers of Warrington Township, Pa., writes, “doors with bulletproof [sic] glass are the way to go. We also need the first-floor glass windows to be bulletproof. If an attack happens and a would-be killer does get into a school, the children will be safe in their classrooms. This will allow more time for the police to arrive and do their job.” Daggers’ letter appeared in the Philadelphia-based Intelligencer.

The legislation, which would provide for a range of safety improvements in schools, now will move to the Senate floor for review.

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