By Ben Erwin
Against the backdrop of the killing of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., state legislatures across the country are considering K-12 school safety measures.
NCSL has compiled a snapshot of state legislation addressing school safety as of early April 2018.
Two hundred bills or resolutions addressing school safety have been introduced in 39 different states. Half of those bills were introduced—in 27 states—since the events in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.
State legislatures have proposed a variety of approaches to improve school safety measures, including:
- Arming school personnel (44 bills in 20 states).
- Developing emergency response plans (35 bills in 19 states).
- Requiring emergency drills (25 bills in 16 states).
- Addressing school resource officers (SROs) regulations and training (34 bills in 19 states).
- Strengthening building security (32 bills in 17 states).
- Increasing access to mental health services (28 bills in 18 states).
Nearly half of these proposals cover the possession of firearms in K-12 schools.
Among the more than 100 bills or resolutions proposed since the Parkland tragedy, 37 of them—in 17 states—address the possession of firearms in K-12 schools. Eleven states have proposed expanding concealed carry rights in K-12 schools.
Meanwhile, five bills—in four states—propose restricting concealed carry rights in K-12 schools. None of these has become law.
Eleven state legislatures have proposed arming, or exploring options for arming, K-12 school personnel. (The NCSL Blog post, “Carrying Firearms in K-12 Schools: A Policy Snapshot,” provides an overview of current state statutes regarding the possession of firearms at K12 schools.)
Florida Senate Bill 7026, the comprehensive school safety legislation enacted in response to the events in Parkland, created a unique program—among a number of other provisions—that, according to one legislative staff summary: “[A]llows school districts to decide whether to participate in the school guardian program if it is available in their county. A school guardian must complete 132 hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training, 12 hours of diversity training, pass a psychological evaluation, and initial drug test and subsequent random drug tests. No teacher will be required to participate. In fact, the legislation provides that personnel that are strictly classroom teachers with no other responsibilities cannot participate, with specified exceptions.”
Although most states already require school districts to develop emergency response plans or to conduct emergency drills, 12 states have 23 proposals—introduced after the events in Parkland—mandating or augmenting existing emergency plan procedures.
Meanwhile, eight states have 15 proposals requiring regularly conducted emergency drills. Some of the proposed legislation encourages or requires collaboration between state agencies and local law enforcement. Iowa Senate Bill 2364, which requires schools and districts to consult with local emergency management coordinators and local law enforcement agencies in the development of the plan, and Maryland Senate Bill 1265, which requires local law enforcement agency to participate in the school's active threat drill.
Following the events in Parkland, 12 states introduced bills addressing school resource officer training and hiring requirements, as well as policies similar to Georgia Senate Bill 470, mandating the presence of a school resource officer at K-12 schools.
Thirteen states have proposals like Minnesota Senate Bill 3471 to strengthen school building security through infrastructural improvements, including, but not limited to, metal-detectors, alarm systems and reinforced doors.
Eighteen states are considering proposals to increase access to mental health services to address school safety concerns. These proposals would require the presence of a mental health professional in K-12 schools, provide mental health training for teachers and counselors, collaborate with local mental health professionals and/or implement a mental health awareness curriculum.
For more information on School Safety legislation, visit NCSL’s School Safety webpage that includes updated legislative tracking, an overview of state statutes and resources on state school safety laws.
Benjamin Erwin is an intern in NCSL's education program.