Scarnati to Propose 'Safe Schools' Legislation
In the near future I will be introducing legislation to provide targeted grants to Pennsylvania schools in order to address the issue of school violence and improve school safety. This proposal will expand and enhance the current Safe Schools Grant program offered by the Office for Safe Schools within the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In addition, a new program will be established, within the Office for Safe Schools, to provide dedicated grant funding to school entities for the purpose of training and hiring armed guards to provide security for their schools.
The unimaginable tragedy which took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last month has generated a nationwide discussion on the issue of school safety. It is apparent that the most important thing Government can do in order to combat evil individuals, like the mass-murderer who took so many innocent lives in Newtown, is to ensure the greatest level of security possible is provided for our schools.
Many school districts across the Commonwealth currently employ armed police and school resource officers who provide vital protection for our school administrators, teachers and students. Superintendents who have contacted me in the past month have extolled the value of the presence of these brave individuals in their schools, while others have inquired as to where they can procure the funding in order to hire them. In addition, I have heard from several qualified individuals, in my district, who are more than willing to provide this important service to protect our children.
Currently, approximately $500,000 a year is awarded in Safe Schools Targeted Grants. My proposal would increase that amount to a total of $10 million per year. Schools would be authorized to use the funding for a myriad of other school safety purposes in addition to armed security, including: security planning and purchase of security-related devices such as metal detectors, surveillance equipment, electronic locks and deadbolts, risk assessment and violence prevention curricula and plans, as well as conflict resolution and dispute management programs.
This Safe Schools Program represents an important first step in addressing the issue of violence in our schools and achieving the ultimate goal of keeping our children safe.
Please join me in co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation.