School safety database would help educators scour technology options

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. (Senator David Perdue / Flickr)

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To strengthen school safety for K-12 students across the country, lawmakers proposed a bill last week to establish a national database as a resource for districts to assess, identify, and share information on school security technology and innovation.

While the safety of students has become a top priority for many schools, there is no general approach to help educators sift through the multitude of safety technologies or share best practices for designing a secure school environment, according to lawmakers.

The School Safety Clearinghouse Act, introduced by Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Doug Jones, D-Ala., would address this need through a federally funded clearinghouse that state and local officials can use to find best practices for school security and design.

“Every student deserves access to a safe learning environment and a quality education,” Perdue said in a statement. “When a parent brings a child into a public school, there is an implicit agreement that their child will be kept safe. … I believe the first step to improving school security is addressing the structural safety of schools.”

Following the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the school’s safety commission reported that the greatest vulnerabilities of the school existed because of voids in basic safety policies and strategies.

In response to demands from students, educators, parents and others to take action on school safety in light of the tragedy, Congress passed the STOP School Violence Act several weeks later, which set aside $50 million annually to help districts implement improvements to school security infrastructure.

The School Safety Clearinghouse Act would allow districts to make informed decisions about how to implement this funding. The clearinghouse would include recommendations from engineers, architects, first responders, building security experts and mental health advocates on how to best design safe school environments.

“Our bill would simply create a resource where state and local officials can find best practices for school security and design,” Perdue said in a statement. “Ultimately, it will allow parents, teachers, and administrators to make informed decisions about the best ways to keep their schools and communities safe.”

The legislation follows a Federal Commission on School Safety’s recommendation, made December 2018, to establish a federal clearinghouse to assess, identify, and share information on school security technology and innovation.

The clearinghouse would not advocate for specific technologies or tools or impose any mandates on school districts.

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