The U.S. House of Representatives passed the first measure regarding school safety since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that took place on Feb. 14. According to Time, the vote regarding the Student, Teachers and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act on March 14 was an almost unanimous with 407 in favor and 10 against.
The bill was introduced by Republican Rep. John Rutherford of Florida before the shooting in Parkland occurred. The bill authorizes grants administered by the Department of Justice for initiatives that enhance school safety, such as threat assessment systems, employee training and technological improvements within school buildings.
Dr. Shawn Fisher, assistant professor of history and ROTC liaison, said that while the bill is a step towards protecting vulnerable environments, it is inadequate.
“There are 132,000 schools in the U.S. housing some 62 million students and teachers,” Fisher said. “If each school received 1 million dollars, the program would cost well over a $130 billion.”
The bill states that a minimum of $50 million will be allotted toward school safety each year. Based on Fisher’s calculations, this amounts to only $5,000 per school in America over the next nine years.
“The cost of security is staggering,” Fisher said. “Protecting schools must be done, but it will be expensive.”
Junior Kayley Ross grew up in Florida and said she does not think the bill is the best solution. However, she said she is glad action is being taken.
“I know a lot of schools in Florida are just huge schools, so that doesn’t seem like enough money for that amount of students,” Ross said.
James Simmons, Harding Academy superintendent and vice president, said he believes the bill addresses some issues related to school safety, but is not a total resolution.
“If somebody wants to get in a school and they have a gun, they’re going to get into that school,” Simmons said. “If they have a will and a strong want to in that will, they’re probably going to make it happen, even if we don’t want it to.”
Simmons said Harding Academy is working to maximize school safety to minimize more incidents like Parkland and its predecessors. However, because Harding Academy is a private school, Arkansas legislation will not allow it to receive any funds from the act, according to Simmons.
“I appreciate efforts that they’re putting forth to discuss the issue … but I honestly don’t think this is the heart of what we’ve got to do,” Simmons said. “I think they’re hitting at the edges of things that will slow it down.”
The bill is currently awaiting consideration in the Senate. From there, it will travel to the White House. On March 14, Trump endorsed the bill on Twitter and is expected to sign it into law.
“There have been so many school shootings in other states,” Ross said. “Florida was not the first one, so I’m surprised that no one has done anything like it, but I’m glad that they are doing something.”