Bills include flexible funding for building security, mental health, school counselors, and more
Senate Republicans advanced multiple bills focused on school safety this week, adopting a comprehensive approach to mental health and facilities security. Three of the proposals provide new flexible funding for school safety, while a fourth addresses a state emergency evacuation regulation that could inadvertently put students at risk.
- SF 3243 (Pratt) – Allows school districts to use long-term facilities maintenance revenue for remodeling and equipping existing school facilities to increase the safety and security of students and staff.
- SF 2754 (Nelson) – Provides one-time revenue for safe schools that can be used for a variety of things including mental health, school counselors, structural building improvements, and more.
- SF 3068 (Ruud) – Creates a new grant program for public school districts to conduct professional safety audits of their local schools and identify any potential areas for improvement. Districts may receive up to 100% of their costs reimbursed through state grants.
- SF 2900 (Pratt) – Allows schools to modify their emergency drill procedure by not forcing the institution to fully empty the building every time an alarm sounds. Currently, schools must fully evacuate, even in the instance of a verified false alarm. The perpetrator in Parkland exploited this.
“The national debate on school safety has been focused in the wrong direction,” said Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester). “Safe schools aid can be used to make school buildings safer, hire more school resource officers, mental health professionals, school counselors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and alcohol dependency counselors. We want our schools to be safer, and for schools to be able to provide mental health and counseling services. Every school is different and we want to empower those who know their students and school best.”
Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake), added, “Students won’t be able to focus on learning if they don’t feel safe in their school buildings. Our proposals provide new resources for remodeling and equipping schools with security modifications like cameras, public announcement systems, secure entryways, bulletproof glass, and just about any other security feature you can think of.”
“Sometimes school officials need help recognizing where their vulnerabilities lie, which is why it’s important to do professional safety audits of school buildings,” said Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point). “Our proposals encourage schools to get an expert opinion so they can spend their money wisely to vastly improve student safety.”