|By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne)
The tragedies at Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland have turned the issue of school safety into a national concern. No child should have to fear going to school, no educator should have to confront a gunman and no parent should have to worry his or her child won’t come home.
That’s why new state laws were recently enacted to help make Pennsylvania classrooms safer places where learning can take place effectively. Our work is not done but these are important steps forward to improve the security of our schools.
A $60 million block grant program included in the 2018-19 state budget allows school districts to secure funding to be used for a variety of safety and security enhancements to meet their own specific needs. Every district that applies will receive at least $25,000.
The funding can go toward the hiring of 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; or physical upgrades to school buildings and equipment to improve safety.
A second initiative created by Act 44 of 2018
establishes a new tip line for students, teachers and residents to anonymously report any unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities in schools. The tip line, administered by the Office of Attorney General, will be staffed by trained professionals who can appropriately respond to the situation and provide the caller peace of mind that their concern will be addressed.
As a way to give school officials more guidance in creating safer schools, Act 44 also calls for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to offer a uniform approach to evaluating current security measures in every school building in Pennsylvania.
It also requires schools to provide employees with mandatory training on school safety and security, and mandates school security drills to be held annually.
A final component of the new law allows school boards to go into private, executive session for school safety discussions. That way school officials can freely debate and develop security plans without disclosing their plans to would-be attackers.
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office