HARRISBURG – State Sen. Jim Brewster has announced that he will introduce legislation that would establish a statewide school safety panel to review school and bus safety policies and procedures and help lawmakers implement standardized statewide safety procedures.
“Recent school tragedies and disturbing reports on security and background check lapses have exposed a disturbing vulnerability on the safety of our schools,” Brewster said.
“Funding shortfalls and antiquated safety procedures are putting our children at risk. We must take steps to upgrade school safety and security.”
To address the issue in a thorough and comprehensive way, Brewster said he would establish a 10-member statewide panel to offer diverse expertise, wide-ranging viewpoints and innovative ideas.
Panel members would be comprised of law enforcement officials, educators, parents and legislators.
“Using the latest data and information, this panel would be called on to continually review proposed changes to the state’s strategic plan, analyze existing safety procedures and study new ideas, technology and strategies to help lawmakers and education officials update statewide policies and procedures.”
In support of the panel’s efforts, Brewster said he will also call for a legislative committee to gather comprehensive data from statewide school districts, private schools and colleges to provide detailed data on school and bus safety procedures.
“This information would help form a basis by which the school safety panel, lawmakers and education officials can implement sound and substantive statewide safety procedures,” Brewster said.
The McKeesport lawmaker said there are many school safety bills in the pipeline and that it is important to gather all the information and ideas in a one-time effort to implement a strategic plan.
“Policymakers need factual and detailed information on existing procedures, problems and strategies before we can act on a comprehensive solution,” Brewster added. “We need all the facts so we can take what’s working and improve upon it.”
Brewster, who co-chairs the Legislative and Budget Finance Committee, said he will ask the committee chairman, Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Berks/Bucks/Montgomery), to have their committee conduct the comprehensive data collection – mandating that a report be completed and submitted to lawmakers no later than Dec 31.
He said the data can help assess the use, efficiency and success of various school safety measures such as armed guards, tip-lines, arming school personnel, surveillance cameras and other structural and technology enhancements.
He said the data collection effort can assist and work conjunctively with efforts underway by education officials, lawmakers and other state officials.
“All options need to be on the table as we go about finding the best way to improve safety in schools and on buses,” Brewster said.
“We also need to explore prospective financial resources that can support our efforts.”