Student Well-Being

Since Newtown, State Lawmakers Push School Safety Bills

By Nirvi Shah — April 26, 2013 1 min read
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For months now, my colleague Andrew Ujifusa and I have been watching as state legislators react to the December shootings in Newtown, Conn.

We noted the signing of legislation in South Dakota that allows teachers to carry guns to school. We’re waiting to see whether South Carolina lawmakers will decide to pay for police officers at every school in the state. Andrew noted the passage of gun-control legislation in Connecticut and New York.

While some of these proposals have received a lot of attention, we wondered whether they represented what’s really happening in state legislatures.

Not really, we found.

While proposals to arm teachers have gotten a lot of attention, after inspecting hundreds of state bills, Andrew and I found that lawmakers’ No. 1 priority has been to change the way schools prepare for emergencies. Take a look (and a click):

A fair number of bills consider improving school climate as part of the solution to preventing acts of violence in the future, and many lawmakers want to boost the police presence in schools—which some civil rights and education groups are worried about. (We classified all of the bills we analyzed into one of seven categories, such as “Arming School Employees” and “Building Safety Upgrades.”)

While state legislatures are still, for the most part, in the midst of their sessions and much action could be yet to come—or many proposals will likely die, the fact that there’s any action at all is a sharp departure from the U.S. Congress, where very little is happening on the school safety and mental health front.

Some examples of state action: In Oklahoma, a new law will requires schools to conduct two drills each to practice for intruders, fires, and tornadoes, and select two other emergency drills to conduct annually, in addition to the two lockdown drills the state requires. A new Virginia law will require the state’s public school authority to issue bonds to fund matching grants to school districts to pay for safety equipment.

If there’s a state-level bill that Andrew or I missed, please let us know. Email or, or find us on twitter @StateEdWatch and @NirviShah.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.