Rep. Larsen sponsors school safety bill
Schools across the United States could have more federal funds to improve safety and security if the School Safety Act of 2017 is passed.
The bill is being sponsored by local U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents Washington's second congressional district, which includes Marysville, Arlington and other parts of the Puget Sound.
"I'm one of the prime sponsors of the bill because I think it's a way to continue addressing school safety issues, overall," he said.
He said the 2014 Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting was one of the primary motivators for him.
"If this bill can prevent even one family from going through that experience, then Congress has a responsibility to take action," he said.
Between 2013 and 2015 there have been at least 160 school shootings in the U.S., resulting in 59 deaths, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.
The bill has bipartisan support, said Larsen, and is being cosponsored by Rep. Suzan DelBene, who represents Washington's first congressional district, and others.
The bill would renew the Secure Our Schools program, which provided resources to local, state and tribal governments to provide for safety and security.
That program has not received funding from the U.S. Congress since 2010, but would receive $30 million in federal funding under the proposed bill.
"Schools are pretty well strapped of funds right now, so if the federal government can help out in this way it will be a good thing," he said.
The bill wouldn't require specific security measures, but instead allows for schools to apply for grant funding.
"School districts would apply for a grant to explain what they would use the additional funds for," said Larsen, which gives schools a range of flexibility with what they want to use the funds for.
"It might be metal detectors, it might be locks, it might be more lighting to reduce dark areas," he said. "It depends on what the school districts want."
Other potential uses include specialized training for staff and students, setting up emergency community systems between school districts and local law enforcement, physical deterrents, security assessments or other coordination measures between schools and local police.
Larsen said there were many approaches to school safety and it was up to the schools to find what works best for them.
He hopes the new bill will contribute to a safer school environment around the country.
"This is one way I can continue to address these issues," he said.
The bill was re-introduced on March 20 in Washington D.C., said Larsen.
"Now we're in the process of getting more support for the bill," he said.
"I'm always hopeful that I can get a bill I sponsor passed. It's just a matter of working at it at this point."
He noted that some large organizations, like the Fraternal Order of Police, have already shown public support, which is a good sign.
Last year, Larsen and Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks started the School Safety Caucus to look for the best ways to invest in school safety and security. Brooks is one of the co-sponsors of the School Safety Act of 2017.