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School Security Bills Survive Months After Fatal Shootings in Connecticut, Alabama

Posted on July 24, 2013 at 9:25 PM

As 2013 dawned, the nation continued to mourn the lives lost in the Sandy Hook school shooting, and soon after, mourned a heroic Alabama school bus driver who died protecting his students in late January. Legislators in every state rushed to draft bills designed to create new protections for American students in the wake of the murders, and in the Midland City, Ala., case, a lengthy hostage standoff.


Yet, as 2013 legislative sessions adjourn this month in 22 states and counting, the roster of new bills has shrunk as dozens were withdrawn or died in House and Senate chambers. In Maryland, for example, seven out of eight proposed bills died, including one to authorize school employees to bring handguns on campus with the permission of their school boards. A New Hampshire bill to arm authorized school employees similarly died in the House.


Six states now allow any school employee with a permit to carry concealed firearms on school grounds: Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. Virginia allows security offers on school sites to be armed, and a dozen more states are seeking this type of protection.


Connecticut was alone in passing tough new gun control laws (SB 1160), including the strictest assault weapons ban in the nation as well as a ban on selling magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. And Alabama was the only state to draft proposed legislation to toughen penalties for trespassing on a school bus with malicious intent, with one bill sponsor calling for this crime to become a felony. The bill was introduced before the Jan. 29 of bus driver Chuck Poland with the impetus being the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementrary in Newtown, Conn.


Federal legislators took another approach to protecting students during the school day. U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, introduced a bill that would revitalize the dormant Cops in Schools (CIS) grant program and fund it with $30 million annually.


“The recent school massacre in Newtown, Conn. sent shock waves across the country,” Meadows said in a news release announcing his proposed Protect America’s Schools Act of 2013. “As a father, I grieved with the families who lost a loved one that day. And as a legislator, I vowed that I would take action to prevent future tragedies.”


STN reviewed media reports, along with state Senate and House websites, to find school security bills that specifically affect student transportation professionals, and discovered many that call for more emergency training, including active-shooter drills, for all school employees as well as some bills that would permit employees to carry a firearm or keep one locked in their personal vehicle. Below is a state-by-state compilation. States that are not represented had no school-security measures pending because they had died. Please let us know if we missed anything of note related to school transportation departments.


Alabama: The House on April 18 passed HB 91, which would expand school safety training by requiring drills for active shooters and intruders at least once each semester. Another bill that would toughen penalties for trespassing on a school bus, HB 105, gained House support April 11. HB 105 would make this crime a class-A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. The Senate version, SB 15, would make it a crime for an unauthorized adult to board a school bus, vandalize a bus or enter a bus with an intent to cause damage.


Arizona: HB 2656 would establish an optional "School Safety Designee" program run by the state attorney general's office that would allow it to provide training at schools that would involve storing a loaded firearm on campus. SB 1325 would allow an authorized school employee to possess a concealed firearm on school grounds under certain conditions


Arkansas: SB 896 would allow a church that operates a K-12 private school to allow a person who has a license to carry a concealed handgun to do so on that school's property. Governor signed into law SB 140, which requires "active shooter" drills at schools as well as other annual training to prepare for other emergencies, while SB 93 requires a study of the readiness of schools in terms of preventing and responding to acts of violence against the students and school personnel


California: AB 202 would create a School Marshal Plan, which would authorize districts and county education officials to spend general fund money on training school resource officers (SROs). AB 1264 would require school safety plans to include "tactical response" plans to criminal incidents and for school officials to develop those portions of the safety plan with law enforcement officials.


Colorado: SB 13-138 would specify responsibilities for SROs and partnerships between schools and local police and emergency workers to develop emergency and safety plans. HJR 1021 would provide funds for the hiring of SROs and assist school districts in hiring them


Connecticut: HB 5390 would create a matching grant program that would reimburse municipalities 80 percent of the cost of using law enforcement personnel as SROs. HB 6306 would enable school officials and school boards to establish protocols that allows school personnel to carry weapons on school grounds.


Delaware: HB 34 This bill would create a state competitive grant program for funding of school safety projects, with a maximum award of $50,000 per school


Florida: SB 1730 would create the School Safety Marshal Program, which would allow school personnel to carry concealed firearms on school grounds. HB 1097 and SB 1418 would allow school employees designated by a school principal or superintendent to carry firearms on school campuses, along with written proof of permission to do so. SB 790 would require schools to conduct emergency lockdown drills at least as often as emergency evacuation drills.


Georgia: SB 101 would allow an individual authorized in writing by a school official to carry a weapon on campus and on school vehicles after training.


Hawaii: HB 1477 would create a task force to examine safety and security in the state’s public schools.


Illinois: SB 1625, which passed the Senate without opposition this spring, would require schools to conduct drills that simulate shooting incidents and incidents of suspicious persons on school property.


Indiana: SB 1 would specify training and other requirements for SROs, and would allow a state grant to be used by schools for these officers, as well as for threat assessments of school buildings and new safety equipment. HB 1473 would allow a teacher or other school employee, as well as employees contracted to schools, to bring firearms and ammunition onto school grounds in their personal vehicles. But the firearm and ammunition would either have to be stored in a locked vehicle's glove compartment or out of sight in a locked vehicle.


Iowa: Three measures would allow anyone with a permit to carry a firearm, either concealed or openly, to do so on school grounds (school employees, HF 172; others, HF 169 and its companion bill, SF 251).


Kansas: Kansas will allow public schools and colleges to arm employees with concealed guns and loosen restrictions on carrying concealed weapons into public buildings, starting in July. Gov. Sam Brownback signed the concealed-carry legislation (HB 2052) into law on April 16.


Kentucky: HB 354 would require school districts to adopt school emergency plans and emergency drills, as well as send annual reports on these issues to the state education department. It would also require each school to conduct safety and lockdown drills in the first month of a school year.


Louisiana: HB 6 would exempt off-duty police officers from legal penalties for carrying firearms onto school grounds or at school events, and HB 79 would require each public school principal to develop a school safety plan in conjunction with law enforcement, while also requiring classroom doors to be fitted with appropriate locks and remain locked during instructional periods.


Massachusetts: S.1198 would require the creation of a state commission to examine school safety plans, including how schools presently deal with active shooters. H.360 would create a grant program for SROs that would help school boards train and pay for SROs.


Michigan: HB 4098 would allow school employees to carry concealed pistols onto school property if authorized by school leadership and if they successfully complete a training program. HB 4104 would attempt to close a loophole in state law that allows people to openly carry weapons in schools.


Mississippi: The governor approved a bill (SB 2659) and signed a new law to allow districts to arm school personnel as well as to add SROs. In early April, the state passed a bill that would establish a $5.5-million fund to help schools hire armed officers and, for those unable to meet the grant requirements, to arm teachers and faculty.


Missouri: New legislation (HB 152) signed into law July 11, 2013 expands the use of trained school officers, allowing them to operate on school grounds, on school buses, and at school-sponsored activities, to improve school security. They have the authority to stop, detain, and arrest for crimes committed at any of these locations. HB 70 would allow a teacher or school administrator to carry a concealed firearm into a higher education institution or elementary or secondary school if he or she has a valid concealed carry endorsement or permit.


Montana: H 384 would eliminate an exception in the law prohibiting firearms on school grounds, and allow firearms to be kept in a locked motor vehicle on school property.


Nevada: AB 143 and AB 235 would allow, respectively, people with permits to carry concealed firearms on the property of a public school or child care facility and to carry weapons, including firearms, onto the property of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a private or public school or a child care facility only if the weapon remains out of sight.


New Jersey: AB 3749 would allow the state education commissioner to authorize school boards to hire retired law enforcement officers to provide school security when school is in session or when schools are occupied.


New York: The NY SAFE Act is a new law that increases penalties for bringing a firearm onto school grounds or school buses, and creates "school safety improvement teams" to work with schools on evacuation and other emergency plans (see S.2230). Meanwhile, AB 4797 would permit retired or off-duty law enforcement officers to have firearms on school grounds and carry more than seven rounds of ammunition. AB 5014 would allow school safety agents to use electronic dart guns or electronic stun guns and allow principals or superintendents to appoint school safety officers.


North Carolina: Several bills are pending that would allow employees such as teachers, administrators, safety marshals and volunteer SROs at public or private schools to be armed: SB 146, SB 190, SB 27, HB 246 and HB 595.


North Dakota: Two new laws expand which individuals may carry concealed firearms on school grounds and at school functions, while the House bill clarifies other exemptions such as for firearms in motor vehicles: HB 1283 and SB 2145. Additionally, state Schools Superintendent Koppelman told STN that SB 2267, if passed, would provide funding to school districts to help update security in school buildings by using alarms, cameras, electronic door locks, emergency response call buttons, intercom systems, key or pass cards, metal detectors, and other similar equipment designed to minimize the potential for a life-threatening crisis.


Ohio: HB 8, a placeholder bill, is expected to contain language to allow off-duty police, security guards, and other individuals to carry weapons at school, and/or allow school boards to empower other school employees to carry weapons on campus.


Oklahoma: SB 833 would allow concealed weapons to be carried on school campuses, including in locked vehicles, as long as school authorities provide written consent, which the gun owner must carry with his or her concealed weapons permit. SB 256 was signed into law and now requires all school districts to conduct lockdown drills in addition to fire, intruder, and tornado emergency drills. SB 257, 258 and 259 were also signed into law.


Oregon: SB 347 would allow people with concealed handgun permits to carry their weapons on school grounds if the school board adopts a written policy authorizing those with such permits to do so.


Pennsylvania: HB 896 would implement a security presence with an armed, retired police officer in all publicly funded schools statewide, stipulating that officers must undergo a complete background investigation and be annually certified via training. Their main responsibility would be to screen visitors for weapons and detect threats before allowing them entrance into the school.


Rhode Island: HB 5068 would require all school buildings to have a guard on duty that is chosen by a school committee (it does not specify if this guard would be armed). HB 5420 would require four lockdown drills at each school every year from January through June.


South Carolina: HB 3237 would require every public school in South Carolina to have armed police on campus. Two other bills would allow public school employees who have concealed weapons permits to carry the weapons to school if they meet certain requirements (HB 3160) and allow people with concealed weapons permits to bring weapons onto school property only if they are locked in their vehicles (SB 242).


South Dakota: The governor signed into law HB 896, the "school sentinel" bill, which allows school boards to arm employees or volunteers, called school sentinels, who can help defend schools against violent attacks. The sentinels must complete a training program before carrying firearms on campus.


Tennessee: The governor on May 1 signed into law HB 6, the School Security Act of 2013, which allows K-12 school personnel to possess a firearm on school property if the person has a handgun carry permit, is authorized by the school superintendent, has had 40 hours of basic school policing training and uses frangible bullets.


Texas: SB 509 would allow voters to set up local taxing districts to pay for armed guards or other security measures. New bills would allow the school employees and board members to carry firearms to school sites and school events/meetings: HB 223, HB 1298, HB 1896, HB 2535 (security officers). HB 1009 would create a new type of law enforcement officer, school marshals, to be hired specifically to act as necessary to prevent or stop incidents that threaten serious injuries or deaths of students, faculty or school visitors.


Vermont: H.472 would make it a felony to threaten a school or its students and would allow those who make such threats to be taken to a local hospital for examination by law enforcement or mental health professionals.


Virginia: Governor McDonnell signed a half-dozen bills recommended by the School and Campus Safety Task Force, and they will take effect July 1. Key bills for K-12 public schools are HB 1582, which will allow security officers hired by schools to carry firearms on both public and private school grounds, and measures related to establishing threat assessment teams (HB 2344) and mandating specific training, such as lockdown drills (HB 2346) and critical incident response training programs (HB 2345).


Washington state: SB 5197 passed the Legislature and was signed by the governor in late April. The measure requires all school districts to install panic alarm systems in all of their schools and to submit a progress report on implementation by Dec. 1, 2014. HB 1788 would allow school districts to authorize certain employees to carry firearms on school grounds under certain conditions. SB 5620 would amend state law so the number of lockdown drills annually at each public school would increase from one to three, and adds another drill of each school’s choosing.


Wisconsin: Rep. Don Pridemore introduced a bill to allow armed guards in public schools in early April. AB 118 would allow school boards to enter into contracts with individuals or firms to provide armed security in schools. It was referred to the Committee on Judiciary.


Sources: STN independent research; “School Safety Legislation Since Newtown,” Education Week, May 6, 2013

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