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We have just completed week five of the 2024 Legislative Session. It was a busy and productive week in the Iowa House. In this edition of Freedom Watch: School Safety.

I have been working with a number of other legislators for several years on ways to enhance school safety. The tragic shooting at Perry High School placed even greater urgency on making our schools as safe as possible.

House Republicans have been meeting with school administrators, law enforcement, teachers, and other stakeholders as we work to develop legislative solutions that will make our students and staff safer at school.

This week, we released two priority bills with numerous policies focused on increasing school safety. This is not an issue that can be solved with one master stroke, but rather is a complex challenge that requires an expansive approach. Therefore, we are tackling this issue with multiple initiatives.

House Study Bill 675 focuses on hardening our schools by placing highly qualified and trained personnel on site and ready to protect students in the event of an emergency. Provisions in this bill include:

·       Schools with an enrollment of over 8,000 students will be required to employ at least one school resource officer or a private security officer that meets training requirements. This bill also creates a grant program to match funds to help schools fund these positions.

·       Creates a new permit that allows a school employee to have a firearm once certain strict standards are met. The requirements for this permit are extensive and include one-time in-person legal training, annual medical training, and communication training. Further, it is mandated that the Department of Public Safety must implement required, annual live scenario training and quarterly live firearm training for permitted school employees. This program is entirely optional for schools and was created at the request of districts that have tried to implement similar programs to keep their children safe but needed state assistance to get it done.

We will also move a school safety bill that focuses on infrastructure. Provisions in this bill include:

·       Schools are required to complete a comprehensive review of their school safety and emergency response plans and submit this review to law enforcement before the 2024-2025 school year.

·       The creation of a fund to install radios capable of accessing the Statewide Interoperable Communications System in all school buildings that don’t currently have them. This radio system helped law enforcement coordinate their response to the shooting at Perry High School.

·       Implementation of a sophisticated firearm detection software program in three schools of different sizes through a pilot program. If successful, this program could be implemented in all of our schools, greatly enhancing school safety.

·       Establishment of a task force to recommend school safety standards in building code. Beginning in 2026, schools would then be required to meet established school safety standards arising from the task force recommendations, before using any SAVE funds on athletic facility projects.

The work continues on these important initiatives. House Republicans are focused on real solutions to making our students safer. With record amounts of money being spent on mental health initiatives, the reality is that we must fortify our schools and put highly trained armed personnel in place that can more quickly respond to an attack on innocent children and staff.

The data clearly shows that hard targets are attacked far less than soft targets. If our initiatives become law, our schools will no longer be soft targets for evil individuals to carry out attacks on our children and staff.

Author: Steven Holt


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