Our children are the most vulnerable part of our population and in many cases they are not well protected in school (where they spend the majority of their day).
Over the past 20 years, safety and security have been a priority at colleges and universities because of national laws like the Clery Act. Unfortunately, these laws do not apply to K-12, and 90% of our states do not enforce minimum security standards.
Quantity Versus Quality - 450+ Bills propose improved School Safety and Security
In response to the December 2012 tragedy in Newtown, CT, state legislators introduced over 450 Bills intended to improve safety and security at public schools. These bills cover a wide range of security concerns such as armed guards, anonymous reporting systems (tip lines), improved school security planning, emergency notification systems, and training.
However, the excitement generated from the sheer volume of 450+ Bills is quickly deflated when you realize that over 160 were rejected only 5 months after they were proposed. A closer look at the content of the new Bills shows that state legislators are operating independently and in many cases reinventing the wheel. For example:
- Most of the new Bills appear to ignore the the lessons learned from over 20 years of requirements already in place for Universities and Colleges
- A majority of the Bills propose improvements but fail to establish a budget or identify how it is going to be funded
- Most new Bills lack teeth to ensure compliance
- Most new Bills fail to recognize national standards and guidelines produced by FEMA and other recognized resources
- Most Bills only apply to public schools and fail to include private schools
Parents Need to Stay Vigilant
The 1975 Schoolhouse Rock series "I'm Just a Bill" teaches us that Bills often travel a long road before they become Law. (Don't remember Bill? Catch him on YouTube.) In summary, new Bills are not Laws they are ideas that could someday become law.
A good point of reference comes from the website Bully Police USA founded by a devoted advocate for state anti-bullying law, Brenda High. From their site you can see that it has taken 13 years for 49 states to pass anti-bullying laws.
School safety and security is a complex and constantly moving target. Parents need to recognize that problems will not be solved overnight and a lot more work is necessary to provide our children with a safe and productive learning environment.