School Safety Legislation Since Newtown
School Safety Legislation Since Newtown
After the devastating school shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December, state lawmakers around the country vowed to act. The mission: devise ways to prevent a similar tragedy.
They came up with hundreds of possible strategies.
An Education Week analysis of more than 450 bills related to school safety filed in the days, weeks, and months after the deadliest K-12 school shooting in U.S. history found that legislators have proposed solutions that include arming teachers, adding guards or police officers, and shoring up the security of school buildings.
The bills included all have a direct link to education, or to the Newtown shootings. So while bills about magazine size and assault-weapon restrictions are included, those involving background checks for gun purchases are not, unless they also contained provisions related to schools. Where the same version of a bill was introduced in both legislative chambers, generally, only one was counted. Read More ▼
A few states allowed school employees, including teachers, to carry weapons to school before Newtown. So far, only three more—Kansas, South Dakota, and Tennessee—have passed laws allowing it since. But at least 62 proposals have been introduced in state legislatures to create that option or to require armed staff members. That's a departure from the reaction after the 1999 school shootings at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo., when placing more police in schools was the focus.
Although the concept of arming teachers has received more attention than other proposals, a plurality of the bills reviewed by Education Week would encourage or require school emergency planning: more drills, more types of drills, and more detailed and dynamic plans. For example, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, signed a measure that requires additional intruder drills in schools and speeds up the deadline for when schools must conduct their first fire drills each school year.
In the analysis, Education Week placed each bill into at least one of seven categories. Because some bills dealt with multiple aspects of school safety, they are classified in multiple categories. Just because two bills are in one category does not mean they have the identical goal.
A few proposals proved difficult to categorize, including one Missouri bill that would bar school employees from asking students about any firearms in their homes. And one Texas bill would allow districts to offer high school students elective classes on firearm safety that would teach the history and importance of the Second Amendment. (Education Week decided to place both of those bills in our "School Climate and Student Supports" category.)
The analysis includes trends in how legislatures reacted in different regions of the country, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. The breakdown includes information from four regions of the country (Northeast, South, Midwest, and West) as well as state activity. For example, Connecticut lawmakers were, not surprisingly, very active when it came to school safety bills.
In each of the four geographic regions used by the Census Bureau, "School Emergency Planning" legislation was the most popular category. The numbers below don't represent individual bills, but which categories legislation addressed.
The analysis found that lawmakers in the South introduced the highest number of relevant bills, 188, while Northeast legislators introduced the second-highest total, 107. The West region, meanwhile, generated the least activity, with just 64 bills related to school safety in some way.
- ■ School Emergency Planning
- ■ Police in Schools
- ■ Arming School Employees
- ■ Easing School Gun Restrictions
- ■ Building Safety Upgrades
- ■ School Climate and Student Supports
- ■ Gun Control
In the South, "School Emergency Planning" was the most popular category, but there were also many bills pushing for "Police in Schools" and "Arming School Employees."
The analysis found relevant legislation in all 50 states. As of late May, 44 bills had been signed in 18 states. Among states with signed bills, Virginia enacted seven new laws, making it the state where the highest number of school-safety bills were signed. Arkansas enacted six, and Maryland enacted five.
Not surprisingly, the state where lawmakers introduced the highest number of relevant bills was Connecticut, where 31 pieces of legislation were generated. However, many of these bills are dead.
The state with the next highest number of bills introduced was New York, with 26 pieces of relevant legislation, followed by Texas (21), Florida (19), Massachusetts (18), and Tennessee (18). Oklahoma lawmakers introduced 17 relevant bills, and Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, signed four of them. Altogether, six out of the top 11 most-active states are located in the South.
On the other end of the spectrum, Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota, Utah, and Vermont each introduced only one piece of relevant legislation, although South Dakota's bill allowing districts to arm teachers was signed into law. Among other states with large numbers of students, California had 15 relevant bills introduced and Illinois had 13.
Notes & Sources
Education Week labeled bills dead only if that status could be confirmed. The analysis included bills that died because they help illustrate trends in legislation and provide insight into what lawmakers have been thinking.
For the most recent update to our legislative tracker, some bills received a "pending-carryover" designation. This means that the bills will "carry over" from the 2013 to the 2014 legislative sessions, since lawmakers have not taken final action regarding them. Some of these bills will may receive further official consideration, while some will may not proceed any further and will die. In the interactive graphic portion of this presentation, these bills are categorized as "pending."
The National Conference of State Legislatures provided baseline information for this analysis.
If you believe any relevant bills are missing from the analysis, please let Education Week know. Send information to Andrew Ujifusa (email@example.com | @StateEdWatch).