Congressman Barletta and State Senator Mike Regan Demand Action on Improving Student Safety
HARRISBURG – Today, Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) and State Senator Mike Regan (R-31) held a press conference at the State Capitol to issue a call to action on school security. Barletta and Regan discussed federal and state efforts to increase school security and improve student safety, and were joined by Cumberland Valley School District Superintendent Dr. Fred Withum, Camp Hill School District Superintendent Dr. Patricia Craig, Cumberland County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jody Smith, and State Representative Greg Rothman (R-87).
“In Washington, we are protected by armed guards, police dogs, and metal detectors,” Barletta said. “While we go to work every day without any fear of attacks, our teachers and students go to school hoping that nothing happens to them. It’s embarrassing and unacceptable. My life is no more important than the life of your child. If we can do it for ourselves, we can do it for them first.”
Barletta, who is the father of four daughters, two of whom are teachers, has taken several actions to address the lack of security in schools. Earlier this morning, Barletta introduced the Protecting Our Kids Act, which would require the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Education to establish security standards and guidelines for schools within 60 days of becoming law. 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.
“School safety is not a one-size-fits-all issue,” said Regan. “That is why Congressman Barletta and I have come together to work collaboratively at the Federal and state levels, along with local law enforcement and school officials to forge a path towards individualized school safety plans that will protect our students, teachers, and administrators while giving families and our communities peace of mind as Pennsylvania becomes a leader on this issue.”
Regan, who is a former U.S. Marshal, has been a leader in addressing the issue of student safety at the state level. Most recently, Regan introduced legislation which creates the Comprehensive School Safety Program which will include assessments, planning and training phases. Based on the results from these assessments, school districts will qualify for dedicated grants to assist in the implementation of increased security measures.
“Responding to school violence is not a Republican issue, it is not a Democratic issue, it is the issue and our children are telling us that,” said Cumberland Valley School District Superintendent Dr. Fred Withum. “I commend Congressman Barletta, Senator Regan, and Representative Rothman for taking leadership at both the federal and state levels on this issue. I look forward to working with them to make Pennsylvania and its schools a role model for school safety across the nation.”
“Dr. Witham is right in saying responding to school violence isn’t about taking political sides, it’s about determining what’s best for students and staff,” said Camp Hill School District Superintendent Dr. Patricia Craig. “I join him in commending Congressman Barletta, Senator Regan, and Representative Rothman for their leadership roles to really ensure that the safety and security of our children is a top priority.”
“I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to Congressman Barletta, Senator Regan, and Representative Rothman for your efforts and strides that you’ve taken to bring this issue to the forefront and to secure funding to help us,” said Deputy Sheriff Jody Smith. “From law enforcement’s perspective, such measures as placing school resource officers within the districts, and providing education to the staff, teachers, and students, and the community are invaluable.”
In March, Barletta sent a letter to appropriators urging his colleagues to double the amount of money provided to the Secure Our Schools (SOS) grant program from $75 million to $150 million. This grant program provides funding for schools to install physical security enhancements such as metal detectors, train students, teachers, school officials, and local law enforcement officers on how to identify and intervene during early signs of violence, create anonymous reporting systems, and implement school threat assessment protocols.
Earlier this week, Barletta signed a letter urging the Department of Justice to issue guidance to states and localities on how to apply for those funds and ensure that the money gets out the door as quickly as possible so that schools can begin to implement security measures best fitted for their students. Currently, none of the funds appropriated for the SOS program have been provided to schools.
Last month, Barletta made a speech on the House floor demanding action from Congress on protecting students through increased security for schools. To view the speech, please click here.
You can view today’s press conference here.