Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, and Sen. Roger Marshall, M.D., R-Kansas, have introduced the Safe Schools Act, which would allow COVID-19 relief dollars that have already been allocated to schools through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to be used by schools to harden themselves with physical security measures, such as locks, panic buttons, individual room security systems, video surveillance, and hiring and paying the salaries of armed school resource officers.
This legislation would remove the requirement that ESSER expenses must be related to COVID-19.
“Now more than ever, we must be proactive in securing our schools,” Garcia said in a prepared statement. “All constitutional options need to be examined to ensure our children are safe in the classroom. I’m proud to join Sen. Marshall in introducing the Safe Schools Act, a common-sense bill that would allow schools to spend leftover COVID relief funds on crucial security improvements to protect students from harm.”
“While we made some progress in previous legislation to make our schools stronger, harder and safer, certainly there is more that can and must be done immediately to protect kids,” said Marshall. “What happened in Uvalde (Texas) was a horrific tragedy. While many have been quick to play politics, one thing we can all agree on is that Congress must act to harden schools. For these reasons, I am introducing this legislation that allows the abundance of unused COVID relief dollars to be diverted to secure schools in Kansas and throughout the nation.”
According to a statement released by Garcia’s office, nationwide, of the $189.5 billion of COVID-19 money awarded under ESSER, state education agencies have yet to spend $150.1 billion (79.2%).
The Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the country’s second largest school district, hasn’t any of the $2.57 billion in American Rescue Plan money it received last year, the statement said.
There were 67 disrupted plots against K-12 schools from 2006 to 2018, and 66% of the schools had no system for alerting officials to concerning or threatening student behavior, the statement said.
The statement also included these recommendations from the Donald Trump Administration’s 2018 Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety:
• School security strategies should use a layered approach that incorporates multiple, reinforcing echelons of policy, programs and protective measures.
• Entry control measures limit the number of access points, allow access only to those who should be on the campus, and provide an opportunity to conduct searches of suspicious items or persons.
• Schools can implement security measures such as fencing, bollards, planters, curbs, or walls to create a single point of entry to the campus.
• Video surveillance is a valuable security measure for entry control.
• Depending on their construction, classroom doors can significantly delay or prevent an attacker from reaching individuals in a classroom.