Senators introduce school safety bill in wake of mass shootings

Senators introduce school safety bill in wake of mass shootings
© Aaron Schwartz
A bipartisan group of senators is introducing legislation on Monday that would establish a federal "clearinghouse" tasked with making recommendations for how to improve school security and design.

The bill, from Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report Democrats spend big to put Senate in play Group of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' MORE (R-N.C.) and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoManchin warns he'll slow-walk government funding bill until he gets deal on miners legislation GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks MORE (R-W.Va.), comes as Congress is grappling with how to respond to a string of mass shootings in recent months.

The bill, which was obtained by The Hill ahead of its release, would establish a federally funded "clearinghouse" that would be overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. It would be tasked with making recommendations and sharing information with state and local officials about best practices on design and security meant to improve school safety.

"As an engineer by trade, I believe the first step to improving school security is addressing the structural safety of schools. Our bill would simply create a resource where state and local officials can find best practices for school security and design," Perdue said in a statement.

Jones added that "school leaders should always have the resources they need in order to protect our children and their teachers. Our bipartisan bill is a smart step to get more information to communities about how they can make their schools as safe as possible.”

Under the bill, the group would solicit input from experts, including architects, engineers and first responders, before it makes recommendations. The recommendations would then be released publicly online. 
A December 2018 Federal Commission on School Safety had recommended creating a national clearinghouse for sharing best practices, but one has not yet been created. 

The bill comes as lawmakers are trying to find a bipartisan deal to address potential gun reforms after recent mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

CNN reported in late July that there had been 22 shootings in 2019 where an individual had been injured or killed. Seventeen people were killed at a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018.

The school safety bill is getting early support from some industry groups.

"Senators Perdue and Jones should be commended for introducing new legislation that will give education officials the vetted information they are desperately seeking to create safe and secure schools for America’s children and teachers," said Robert Ivy, the executive vice president and chief executive officer of the American Institute of Architects.

Daniel Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association, added that "creating a one-stop shop for school safety building design is exactly the kind of work that the federal government is well positioned to do to enhance school safety.”