School Security Bolstered With Omnibus Funding Bill, STOP School Violence Act
Massive funding increases are coming to the education sector just as many school officials feared budgets would shrink.
The omnibus funding bill signed into law Friday increases budgets across the education industry, most notably through the new STOP School Violence Act.
Among the sweeping bill’s many features are $1.2 billion for programs in the education sector to improve school safety, legislation to improve school officials’ emergency preparedness and increased funding for various mental health and law enforcement programs.
At a time when many school officials feared funding in their sector would shrink, President Trump signed the bill after voicing his displeasure over some of its contents on Twitter earlier in the day.
The bill either maintains or increases spending across all major categories of the education sector. For many, the billion-dollar face of that funding is the STOP School Violence Act.
Below we summarize the STOP School Violence Act before touching on some of the other ways the funding helps school officials.
STOP School Violence Act Funds Security Systems, Programs
The STOP School Violence Act is the first federal school safety law since the Parkland shooting. The act provides $75 million in 2018 and $100 million from 2019-2028 for schools to add security systems, improve coordination with local law enforcement agencies and train students, teachers and police on identifying and preventing violence.
Specific features of the act include funding for:
- “The development of school threat assessment and intervention teams that may include coordination with law enforcement agencies and school personnel”
- Specialized training for school officials responding to mental health crises
- “The development and operation of anonymous reporting systems for threats of school violence, including mobile telephone applications, hotlines and Internet websites”
- Improved coordination between school officials and local law enforcement
- Training for local law enforcement to prevent student violence
- “Placement and use of metal detectors, locks and other deterrent measures” on school campuses
- The purchase and installation of emergency communication technology
- “Any other measure that… [improves] training, threat assessments and reporting, violence prevention and security at schools”
The omnibus funding bill passed with bipartisan support early Friday morning.
“By providing critical resources to schools to strengthen their security infrastructure and train teachers, administrators, and law enforcement officers to intervene, we can save countless lives,” Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said when the bill was first introduced.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) made it clear the bill was written with last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in mind.
“The tragedy in Parkland was the direct result of a failure to communicate between law enforcement, the FBI and Broward County Schools,” Rubio said. “The STOP School Violence Act, which was designed by Sandy Hook Promise, would help fix these shortcomings on a national level by driving collaboration between law enforcement and schools to help identify and stop dangerous and violent individuals before they act.”
A provision stipulates that none of the more than $1 billion in funds can be used to arm teachers, although the law does not override existing gun laws or gun training laws.
The directors of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) will provide the grants to states and local governments in part as a revised version of the Secure Our Schools program, which ran from 2002 to 2011. Those agencies can then use the grant money with local education agencies and non-profit organizations.
According to Hatch, the programs, technology and equipment funded through the STOP School Violence Act must be “evidence-based to ensure that money is used for proven, effective improvements to school safety and security.”
The money for the 2018 budget will come from funds for the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, a program developed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 that had more of an emphasis on research and evaluation of school safety programs.
Other Funding Affecting Schools, Colleges in the Omnibus Bill
The omnibus spending bill also creates and continues funding across a wide range of programs that have implications for school and college safety.
- An earmark of 1.1 billion for Title IV, a large grant for schools that can be used for security measures in addition to many other things. Title IV previously received $400 million.
- An amendment and continuation of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.
- An increase of funding from $109 million to $117 million for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces Title IX and other laws. The OCR has scaled back its Title IX investigations during the Trump administration.
- The passage of the Fix NICS Act, which incentivizes federal agencies and the military to upload records into the background-check system used to purchase guns.
- Funding for mental health programs authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act.