Florida Reps on Capitol Hill Want a Federal Clearinghouse on School Safety Best Practices

The Florida delegation continues to champion a proposal to create a Federal Clearinghouse on School Safety Best Practices.

At the end of last week, Florida’s two U.S. senators–Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott–cosponsored U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s, R-Wisc., bill. Johnson, who chaired U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee when the GOP controlled the chamber, first introduced the bill to create a clearinghouse “to help schools and their faculty, parents, and community officials identify school safety measures and resources for implementing them” back in November 2019.

The bill would create the Clearinghouse on School Safety Best Practices which would be under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Clearinghouse would include “recommendations for comprehensive school safety measures, including threat prevention, preparedness, protection, mitigation, incident response, and recovery to improve the safety posture of a school upon implementation” and would “specify criteria for best practices and recommendations and a process for continuous improvement and updating of Clearinghouse so it remains relevant, easy to use, and does not become an enormous data bank wish list.”

The bill would also review various grants to find more funds to use on school safety programs. The proposal would also have the U.S. attorney general and the U.S. secretaries of Education, HHS and DHS “notify their respective counterparts at the state level and other relevant stakeholders, including parents, of the School Safety Clearinghouse” and include key state officials as part of the Clearinghouse.

This week, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., introduced the companion bill with U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and John Rutherford, R-Fla., backing it as cosponsors.

“As we approach the third anniversary of the Parkland shooting, one thing remains at the forefront of my priorities: doing all that I can to promote, enhance, and increase school safety, said Diaz-Balart on Wednesday. “As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I have secured billions in federal dollars to fund school safety initiatives, including school hardening measures, youth mental health services, and training for staff and law enforcement officers. This bill creates an all-inclusive site for schools, families, and community officials to obtain valuable information on school safety resources and best practices. I reiterate my gratitude to the Parkland families, including Alex’s father, Max Schachter, Luke’s parents, Gena and Tom Hoyer, and Gina’s father, Tony Montalto, who is the President of Stand with Parkland. They have truly turned their grief into advocacy for the safety of our children, and I cannot thank them enough for their efforts in making our schools more secure. I thank my colleagues for joining me in introducing this bipartisan and bicameral legislation and I look forward to it swiftly reaching the president’s desk.”

“As we work to end the pandemic and return to a normal school year for our students, we must build school safety into the process,” said Deutch. “Schools shouldn’t wait to implement measures to keep students safe from threats, particularly gun violence. This bipartisan proposal, named in memory of two Stoneman Douglas students and driven by the Parkland families, can help prepare schools by creating a federal clearinghouse of resources and best practices for school safety. Now, not after another tragedy, is the time to pass this bill to keep our students safe.”

“Students shouldn’t have to fear for their lives when they go to school and parents shouldn’t have to worry about whether their kids will come home at the end of the day,” said Murphy. “I’m proud to join with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that schools in Florida and across the country have access to the best resources and information to keep our children safe.”

“Every child deserves to feel safe in school,” said Rutherford. “For administrators, students, parents, and local law enforcement to develop a robust school safety approach, they need easy access to the most accurate and up-to-date information on how to do so. The Luke and Alex School Safety Act will create a one stop shop for the latest school safety research, best practices, and grant opportunities, and make them accessible to every school district across America. Thank you to Representatives Diaz-Balart, Deutch, and Murphy for their commitment to protecting our students in school.”

Diaz-Balart’s proposal was sent to the U.S. House Education and Labor and the Judiciary Committees.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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