The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) K-12 is involved in a collective request from 11 organizations to include K-12 public school security infrastructure, security technology, and life safety systems in President Trump’s national infrastructure proposal.
Over the next few days, we will share the documents we submitted to Vice President Pence’s staff and other staff members of the National Security Council.
The next steps involve a small meeting with the staff to review the substance of the request and provide any additional information needed. This will be followed by a larger meeting with senior White House staff and possibly Vice President Pence.
We will keep you posted as things proceed. Below is text from a letter sent to President Trump regarding the issue:
Dear Mr. President,
Not only have the past few years witnessed an increase in incidents of mass violence at our nation’s schools, but per the FBI, “soft targets” have now become an increasing focus of terrorists plotting attacks against the United States. The visibility and accessibility of our nation’s schools make them vulnerable soft targets – as relatively unguarded sites symbolic of our communities, where Americans congregate in large numbers. Our organizations are urging you to include the improvement of security infrastructure, security technology, and life safety systems for K-12 public schools as a part of any bill to improve America’s infrastructure.
K-12 public schools are a part of our national critical infrastructure. Still, despite the recognition of schools in the National Infrastructure Protection Plan, federal resources have not been provided to protect the security infrastructure of public schools. State and local resources for school security have been limited or completely unavailable. As the Administration prepares a bill to address America’s infrastructure, school security should be considered as a priority to protect our nation’s most precious asset – our children.
Many of the 100,000 K-12 public schools in the United States lack basic security features, such as perimeter protection, access controls, and locks on classroom doors. Federal infrastructure legislation should specify security infrastructure, security technology, and life safety systems as a part of any provision to upgrade schools. All improvements should meet applicable codes and laws.
Every school building is different and must be assessed in the context of the facility’s design, location, local culture, and some set of minimum standards. The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) K-12 recommends an affordable tiered scale of security standards for schools. While there are no hard estimates for improvements, security industry representatives involved in developing the guidelines (and others) have estimated an approximate $100,000 price tag to bring an average school to a tier 1 (basic) level. Security improvements to schools will help address Homeland Security concerns and school-based violence issues. A school security infrastructure program could impact up to a half-million small businesses, and could create work for up to 1.5 million workers nationally.
As the Administration considers assisting schools in improving their security infrastructure, we recommend giving jurisdiction to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the intent that any funds flow through DHS to state Homeland Security departments. Per a recent GAO report: “… an estimated 59 percent of districts had difficulty balancing emergency planning with higher priorities, such as classroom instruction time.” Educators bear the significant responsibility for care of school children, but are not trained in facility security. With so many affordable solutions on the market, such decisions should be that of agencies that do have security expertise. In addition, solutions should be selected locally, and state Homeland Security agencies are best equipped to work with superintendents and local schools, fire, EMS, and police officials to do so.
Finally, we are not recommending that the federal government bear the cost alone. We recommend that a new school security block grant program be created requiring equal state and local matches and capping the federal contribution per school. Title 1 schools would be exempt from the local match.
Our organizations are committed to securing schools and providing affordable and effective solutions that promote safe and secure learning environments for students, teachers, visitors, and school administrators. Thank you for your consideration.
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