Recently I met with several school superintendents, including Superintendent of Buffalo Schools Dr. Scott Thielman, to talk about issues facing our schools. Among the topics of conversation was the safety of students. This issue has been on many people’s minds in the wake of tragedies in Parkland, Florida and Baltimore.
Minnesota has been ahead of the curve on school safety in many ways. Last session, for example, we increased funding for the Minnesota School Safety Center, which conducts trainings statewide and provides safety recommendations to schools. Minnesota also offers a Safe Schools Levy, which is a tool districts can use to raise money specifically for safety improvements like adding police officers, strengthening mental health and counseling services, gang prevention, and infrastructure upgrades.
Whenever there is a tragedy we must be careful not to rush into rash decisions. We have several laws on the books to keep weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers and people convicted of assault. Simply creating a slew of new laws might make us feel good, but it will not stop every violent, mentally disturbed person with evil intent. Instead, we should focus on ideas that will work to secure our schools and give them the tools they need to prevent and defend against attacks.
The Senate Majority is listening to your concerns and focusing on school safety. As we speak, we are working on a number of bills.
– Senate File 3242 allows school districts to use Long- Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue to strengthen building infrastructure by remodeling and equipping existing facilities
– Senate File 2754 provides one-time revenue for safe schools. This funding can be used for a number of priorities, including mental health, school counselors, and structural building improvements.
– Senate File 3068 creates a new grant program so public school districts can conduct professional safety audits of their facilities. These audits will help schools identify areas for improvement and close safety gaps.
– Senate File 2900 modifies emergency drill procedures by removing the requirement that an institution fully empty the building every single time an alarm sounds. Current law calls for full evacuations, even if it is a verified false alarm. The Parkland shooter took advantage of a similar requirement, but we will give schools the flexibility to determine in the moment if a building should be evacuated.
It is a natural reaction to reflexively want to focus on guns in the wake of any tragic shooting, and I am open to considering ideas that will work. In the case of Parkland, the shooter purchased his gun legally and passed a background check. But, there were other ways the shooting could have been prevented — that young man repeatedly cried out for help, but the system failed him.
Instead, our priority should be making sure schools are as safe and secure as possible, so parents can feel certain their children are protected when they go to class.
Keep in Touch Senator Bruce Anderson 3209 Minnesota Senate Building 95 University Avenue West St. Paul, MN 55155 651.296.5981 sen.bruce.anderson@senate. mn