A bipartisan school safety effort to secure schools

Three years ago, our respective communities suffered heart-wrenching school violence tragedies. On Feb. 14, 2018, a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 students and faculty members. Only two months later, a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas left ten students and teachers dead.

In the aftermath of these tragedies, we knew that school safety needed to be a greater priority in our country, and that partisanship should not get in the way of our children’s well-being in the classroom. We decided to work together, across the aisle, to find a bipartisan way to help address this crisis occurring in both red and blue congressional districts.

As we met with our respective communities and spoke with students, parents, teachers, administrators, and law enforcement officers, we tried to determine what can be done to make our schools safer. School administrators and board members brought up two main points: they were unaware of their schools’ vulnerabilities and concerned that they lacked the budgets to make the necessary security enhancements.

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Out of these conversations, we worked together to develop the Safer Schools Act. This bill would send resources to schools to hire security experts to conduct security assessments and funding to implement safety upgrades.

Security assessments can identify weaknesses that too often go unnoticed until it’s too late. We shouldn’t have to wait for investigations after a tragedy; we can help schools prepare for and prevent violence today.

The bill would also provide federal support to help schools fix the shortcomings identified by security assessments, such as installing bulletproof glass, silent alarms, creating safe corners in classrooms, or perimeter fencing.

We also included provisions from Alyssa’s Law, named after Alyssa Alhadeff who was killed in the 2018 Parkland shooting. Alyssa’s Law requires teachers and school staff to have access to panic buttons that directly alert law enforcement in case of emergency. This law has been adopted in states and jurisdictions across the country, including Florida. Our bill will push more schools to install silent alarms that can speed up response times and save lives.

While we acknowledge that there is still much work to be done on school safety and gun violence prevention, we are confident that the Safer Schools Act can have a significant impact on campus security. These programs will be instrumental in giving our children and teachers the critical tools to be safer in the classroom and be prepared in time of an emergency.

The safety of our children and our communities is an issue that crosses political lines. With this legislation, we are showing our commitment to finding bipartisan solutions that can save lives for current and future generations.

Williams represents the 25th District of Texas and Deutch represents Florida’s 22nd District.