Marino, Davis intensify efforts to strengthen school safety

U.S. Reps. Tom Marino (R-PA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) recently ramped up efforts on Capitol Hill and stateside, respectively, to improve school safety in America.

On April 4, Rep. Davis met with junior high students in Edinburg, Ill., to hear their thoughts on gun violence. Rep. Marino on April 5 introduced the School and Student Safety Act of 2018, H.R. 5427, which would provide a public safety and community policing grant preference for applicants prioritizing the hiring of school resource officers (SROs), among other purposes, according to text of the bill.

SROs are sworn law enforcement officers responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools.
A local police department, sheriff’s agency, or school district usually employs SROs who work closely with school administrators to create safer environments.

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), awards the grants to hire local policing professionals, develop and test policing strategies, and provide training and technical assistance. Since 1994, the COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to help advance community policing, according to the DOJ.

“After many tragic school shootings, we must ensure that our schoolchildren are protected in the classroom,” Rep. Marino said. “My legislation will place some of our nation’s finest in schools to safeguard students, teachers and faculty.”

Specifically, H.R. 5427 would amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and would give grant preference to applicants that prioritize hiring new, additional career SROs who are former U.S. military or career law enforcement officers in good standing.

“With tens of thousands of veterans struggling to find employment, Congress has a tremendous opportunity to protect America’s schoolchildren while providing quality jobs to those who have sacrificed for our freedoms,” said Rep. Marino, adding that military veterans and retired law enforcement officers have years of training that makes them highly qualified to provide effective school security.

“I look forward to continue working with my colleagues in the House to implement policies that provide greater safety for our school children,” he said. H.R. 5427 has been referred to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

In his home state, Rep. Davis met with Edinburg Junior High School students, who had sent the congressman letters about gun violence as part of an assignment on writing a persuasive paper.
“I knew when I got that stack of letters, and read through them, I had to come visit these kids,” Davis told a local TV news station after his surprise visit to English teacher Heather Archey’s classroom.

“Students want to be heard and they want to feel safe in their classrooms,” Rep. Davis said.
“I’m proud of these students for engaging in their government and being part of the discussion.”

Rep. Davis highlighted recent steps by Congress to enhance school safety, improve background checks for firearms purchases, provide more access to mental health care and authorize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the causes of gun violence.

“From Congress to law enforcement to schools, we all have to be part of the conversation and part of the solution,” he said. “Just passing another law is not enough.”

Rep. Davis added that everyone should take a step back from the politics surrounding the issue and constructively determine effective solutions for stopping and reducing violence in America’s schools.

“We’ve seen too many of these shootings happen because there was a breakdown in our system and a failure to act in many cases,” said Rep. Davis.

The congressman told local NBC affiliate Channel 17-WAND that he came to the school because after reading the students’ letters, he wanted to reassure them. “These kids are concerned. These kids are worried, and they need to be heard, ” Rep. Davis said. “They need to be listened to.”