Last year, the U.S. House passed the “Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act” from two congressmen from the Sunshine State--and now another member of the Florida delegation is using it to help secure schools in his district.
Introduced by U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., as the main cosponsor, the bill got through the House on a 407-10 vote last year.
Introduced at the end of January 2018, before the Parkland shooting, the proposal “would create a grant program to train students, teachers, school officials, and local law enforcement how to identify and intervene early when signs of violence arise, create a coordinated reporting system, and implement FBI & Secret Service-based school threat assessment protocols to prevent school shootings before they happen" and “would boost school efforts to develop violence prevention programs and coordinate with law enforcement to improve school.” Rutherford’s proposal also reauthorized the 2001 Secure Our Schools program.
Rutherford and Deutch rounded up most of the Florida delegation to back the proposal as Republican U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Tom Rooney, Ros-Lehtinen and Dennis Ross and Democratic U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson cosponsored the bill.
This week, Bilirakis announced that Pasco County Schools will get $500,000 from the federal government under the STOP School Violence Act. Pasco County has 94 schools, more than 75,000 students and more than 10,000 students, making it the tenth largest school district in the state.
“The funds will be used to enable Pasco Schools, law enforcement partners, and mental health providers to facilitate multi-disciplinary threat assessments while developing behavioral threat assessment teams to intervene and mitigate potential risks. Funding will build on current community engagement by supporting a dedicated school threat assessment coordinator and certified juvenile criminal intelligence analyst,” the congressman’s office noted.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco weighed in on Tuesday on the funds.
"We want to thank Congressman Bilirakis for his leadership in protecting our children in Pasco County. Funding for threat assessments is one of the best methods for prevention and to help a child in distress before they become a threat to others or themselves. We look forward to further partnering with Pasco County Schools and Superintendent Browning on this important initiative,” said Nocco.
“There is no higher priority than ensuring that all children have a safe and secure learning environment,” said Bilirakis. “These funds will help provide better screening and identification of students who may need intervention. We can then link those who are at-risk with high-quality mental health services. Prevention is key, and these funds will help prevent violence in our schools while improving access to mental health treatment for those who need it.”
At the start of the year, Bilirakis brought back a bill to help boost security at schools around the nation.
Back in July 2018, Bilirakis unveiled the “Promoting Resource Officers Together for Exceptionally Critical Targets with Key Investments in Districts and Schools Act" (PROTECT KIDS Act). He reintroduced it in January as the new Congress convened.
The bill would hire more Student Resource Officers (SROs) in schools by setting aside $250 million--up from the $225 million he called for in July--from the federal government that the U.S. Department of Justice will use in a matching grant program over five years. The funds would be used to match funds from local school districts and municipalities to hire SROs. The bill requires the Justice Department prioritize larger school districts with 65,000 students or more. Under the proposal, districts can apply for up to $10 million with a limit of $20,000 for each school.