The tragic events in Newtown, Conn., in December reminded all of us that the safety of our schools and our children is of paramount concern. The Security Industry Association (SIA) has been on the forefront of this issue, working with the industry, state and federal governments, and school administrators to ensure the safety of our children and teachers.
On March 12, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve the School Safety Enhancements Act of 2013 (S. 146). Sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and supported by SIA, the measure passed the committee with bipartisan support.
The legislation is also supported by the National Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the Association of Education Service Agencies, the National Rural Education Association, and the Rural Education Advocacy Association.
As amended, the legislation would provide $40 million annually to communities and schools to install a wide variety of security solutions, including cameras, controlled access systems and other life-safety products. It would also help schools conduct security assessments and training for students, teachers and administrators, and help schools better coordinate with local law enforcement agencies.
Local communities and schools would apply for the Secure Our Schools grants through the Department of Justice (DoJ), with federal resources matched by local governments.
The bill would create a DoJ and Department of Education joint task force to develop advisory guidelines that would ensure the safety of children in K-12 schools, and it would establish a National Center for Campus Public Safety to help colleges and universities protect students.
“Local school officials are in the best position to make the final decision on how to use their financial resources,” SIA CEO Don Erickson wrote in a letter sent to Sen. Boxer’s office in support of the bill. “Your legislation will allow many of these strategies to be implemented quickly by providing robust funding for the successful Secure Our Schools Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Justice.”
At press time, the next likely action was to occur the week of April 8 when the Senate was scheduled to vote on what has been called a “school safety package.” This group of legislation includes Senator Boxer’s effort but also some more controversial gun safety measures. (Stay tuned to SSI’s “Under Surveillance” blog for updates.)
In addition to supporting federal funding for school safety measures, SIA Government Relations has sent letters to state legislators in Missouri, Oregon and Texas after legislation was introduced in those states limiting or prohibiting the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in school settings. In the letters, SIA stressed that:
- There has been no demonstrated harm from the deployment and use of RFID technology and, in fact, the technology is a proven solution for the protection of people and assets
- Schools that can verify higher attendance rates using RFID technology are more likely to receive additional funding from the federal and state governments
- Most importantly, this legislation does not take into consideration the safety and security benefits that the use of such technology can provide
This year SIA is offering a half-day track on school safety at the SIA Government Summit, which is being held June 4-5 in Washington D.C. at the W Hotel. In addition, SIA has created a new group on LinkedIn, SIA Safe Schools, which is a forum to discuss policy, technology, compliance issues, and the design and installation of security systems to protect our nation’s schools.
If interested in becoming involved in SIA’s School Safety initiatives, security professionals are welcome to contact me directly for further information.
Marcus Dunn is Director of Government Relations for the Security Industry Association (SIA).