Schools across Texas and the nation are letting out for the summer. It should be a time of joy and excitement for America’s children as they look forward to the freedom and adventure that summer brings.
Unfortunately, after the recent tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, and with the memory of other horrific school shootings, our children, their families, and America’s educators are concerned about the safety of local schools.
As a former schoolteacher, I know firsthand the great responsibility that is felt by those tasked with providing a safe and nurturing environment for our students.
As a parent and a grandparent, I know the uneasy feeling of sending a child off to school, away from my protection, hoping that they will be safe and well cared for at school.
To restore the trust of American parents and children, it is essential that strong safety measures are put in place to ensure our students and their teachers feel safer in their place of learning.
Following the Texas tragedy, Democrats forced a politically motivated and partisan bill through the House that had no chance of passing the Senate and becoming law. Instead of working together to develop legislation that would make children safer at school, decisions were made to exploit the Uvalde tragedy by recycling previously failed gun-control attempts.
Efforts to improve the House bill and ensure both sides could support it were rejected. As expected, the entire process proved to be a waste of time as the Senate has decided to develop a bipartisan bill.
The stakes are too high to be wasting time. I am committed to working with my colleagues to pass school safety legislation, and importantly, legislation that includes expanded access to critical mental health services.
That is why I urge the House to immediately consider the Secure Every School and Protect our Nation’s Children Act, which would help school districts hire mental health counselors and security officers.
Mental health issues have been a common factor in nearly every school shooting. Trained professionals can recognize the warning signs and are skilled in proper intervention. They can make a positive difference in the lives of children with undiagnosed, untreated, or inadequately treated mental health challenges.
In addition to an investment in mental health counseling, many schools across the country need technological modifications to increase the security of their buildings.
I helped pass, and have consistently supported increased funding for, the Stop School Violence Act, which provides grants for the purchase of equipment such as metal detectors and video surveillance systems to enhance schools’ security strategies.
Additionally, the federal government can help communities learn from each other about improvements in school safety measures.
That is why I am a sponsor of H.R. 750, the Luke and Alex School Safety Act, named after two students who were killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attack in Parkland, Florida in 2018.
This bill establishes a national clearinghouse on school safety best practices. It directs key federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to share identified best practices with the states so that local officials and law enforcement are better prepared. Doing this will ensure insightful data and innovative approaches to school security reach every community.
I am encouraged that the Senate is working in a bipartisan way to find common ground on school safety legislation, and I look forward to reviewing what they develop.
As we work to address this priority, I continue to mourn for the victims and with the families of Uvalde.
We must provide our children in this country with safer schools - America’s future depends upon it.