Barletta Testifies at Federal Commission on School Safety Public Listening Session
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) testified at the Federal Commission on School Safety’s public listening session. Held at the U.S. Department of Education’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C., the listening session focused on gathering information from stakeholders, experts, and the public on how schools, districts, institutions of higher education, and other local and state government agencies can improve school safety. Barletta discussed his school security bill, the Protecting Our Kids Act (H.R. 5990), among other topics relating to student safety, and vowed to act swiftly on the commission’s recommendations to Congress.
“As the father of four daughters, two of whom are teachers, and a grandfather of eight, this is an issue that hits close to home,” Barletta said. “As a Member of Congress who sits on both the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the House Committee on Homeland Security, I want to assure the commission that when it provides its recommendations to keep students safe at school, I will fight to ensure Congress acts on those recommendations as quickly as possible. When it comes to the safety of our nation’s students, we can’t waste another day talking instead of acting.”
The Protecting Our Kids Act, which Barletta introduced last week, would take action to improve the safety of America’s students by directing the Department of Education to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish security standards and guidelines for schools within 60 days of enactment. Schools would then be able to use these standards and guidelines as they see fit to best protect their students and teachers. DHS provides similar guidance to federal agencies and buildings to ensure the properties and the federal employees inside of them have adequate protections to keep them safe. H.R. 5990 would not mandate any blanket security protocols, but rather provide an additional tool for schools to use to determine what improvements can be made that best fit the unique needs of their students and faculty.
Barletta also highlighted how quickly additional protections for Members of Congress were added after an attack during last year’s congressional baseball game practice, and stated there were no partisan attempts to hold up the funds to implement these security measures. He contrasted those immediate actions with the lack of momentum on any legislative proposals that would provide tangible, immediate security benefits for our nation’s schools.
“I will ask you the same question I have asked my colleagues,” Barletta said. “Why can’t we move at the same speed when it comes to the safety of our nation’s children? If we, as government officials, can protect ourselves, we can do the same for our students. I look forward to working with the commission and my colleagues in Congress to address these issues and provide our nation’s students with the safe learning environment they deserve.”
Barletta also sent a letter to the Secretary DeVos, who is the chairwoman of the commission, formally requesting the commission consider the importance of preparing and disseminating security guidance that can be tailored to individual schools to provide students across the country with a safe place to learn.
In March 2018, President Donald J. Trump created the Federal Commission on School Safety and charged it with producing actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school. The commission, which is comprised of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, plans to hold formal commission meetings, field visits, and listening sessions similar to the one that took place today.
You can view footage of Barletta’s testimony at the listening session here. (Please see time code -1:39:25.)