HARRISBURG — The Senate approved a comprehensive, bipartisan school safety bill today that will dedicate significant new resources to help prevent school violence.
Senate Bill 1142, sponsored by Senators Pat Browne (R-16), Vince Hughes (D-7) and Scott Martin (R-13), would create the School Safety and Security Grant Program to distribute $60 million in new school safety funding that was included in the state budget. The new funding is in addition to the $10 million dedicated to an existing grant program created in 2013 by a law authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25).
The two grant programs will provide funding for a variety of measures designed to improve student safety and reduce school violence, including:
- hiring school police officers, school resource officers, counselors and/or mental health counselors;
- alternative education and diversion programs;
- violence prevention initiatives;
- school safety and emergency preparedness plans;
- physical upgrades to school buildings and equipment to improve safety.
The legislation would also create a school threat reporting and monitoring system for students, teachers and community residents to anonymously report any unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities in schools. The new Safe2Say Program would be patterned after the Safe2Tell program that was created in Colorado in 1999 after the school shooting at Columbine.
The Attorney General would administer the system and ensure the information regarding potential threats is sent to the appropriate law enforcement agency and school officials for further investigation.
The bill was also amended to include a proposal introduced by Senators Wayne Langerholc Jr. (R-35) and Mike Regan (R-31) that would require the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to develop school safety assessment guidelines. These guidelines would offer a uniform approach to evaluating current security measures in every school building in Pennsylvania.
The newly created School Safety and Security Committee would be made up of various experts in school safety, security and child behavior.
In addition, Senate Bill 1142 would require schools to provide employees with mandatory training on school safety and security. The provision mirrors a proposal introduced by Browne and Senator Tom McGarrigle (R-26). Annual safety assessments for schools will also be required – an idea championed by Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-12).
The school safety measures included in Senate Bill 1142 are the first phase of the Senate’s efforts to protect students. Senate leaders have already announced that hearings will be scheduled over the summer to gather input from various stakeholders regarding additional steps that can be taken to improve school safety.
Senate Bill 1142 was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and was sent to the Governor to be signed into law.
Contact: Senate Republican Communications (717) 787-6725