U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today introduced new legislation to strengthen safety at schools by providing state and local officials with new resources and tools to help them secure their campuses and protect students.
"When our children and our grandchildren are at school, we must have faith that they are safe," Senator Boxer said. "This legislation will help state and local officials protect our children by utilizing all of the law enforcement tools at our disposal."
Senator Boxer's first bill -- the School Safety Enhancements Act -- would strengthen and expand the Justice Department's existing COPS Secure Our Schools grants program to provide schools with more resources to install tip lines, surveillance equipment, secured entrances and other important safety measures.
Currently, the COPS Secure Our Schools program requires a 50 percent local match. Senator Boxer's bill would allow the Justice Department to reduce the local share to 20 percent for schools with limited resources. The bill also creates a joint task force between the Justice Department and the Department of Education to develop new school safety guidelines, and would increase the Secure Our Schools authorization from $30 million to $50 million.
Senator Boxer's second bill -- the Save Our Students (SOS) Act -- would allow the federal government to reimburse Governors who want to use National Guard troops to help ensure that our nation's schools are safe.
This legislation is modeled after a successful National Guard program -- in place since 1989 -- that allows Governors to use the Guard to assist with law enforcement efforts related to drug interdiction activities. Under the new program, Guard troops could help support local law enforcement agencies to ensure schools are safe. The National Guard has said it is "particularly well suited for domestic law enforcement support missions" because it is "located in over 3,000 local communities throughout the nation, readily accessible, routinely exercised with local first responders, and experienced in supporting neighboring communities."
Senator Boxer said Congress should consider the new school safety legislation as part of a comprehensive response to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which would include enacting sensible gun laws -- including banning assault weapons and high-capacity clips -- and ensuring that the mentally ill are not able to purchase guns.