The House of Representatives passed the Stop School Violence Act with broad support from both parties on Wednesday.
By a vote of 407 to 10 the House passed HR 4909, the Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018, as part of Congress's response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 dead. The bill would provide new grants to train law enforcement and school personnel on the warning signs for school violence and how to intervene to prevent that violence. It would also provide grants for anonymous alert systems as well as funding for advanced door locks, further cooperation between schools and local law enforcement, and funding for crisis intervention teams.
"At a time when people are asking Washington to do something, Congress took action today to not just do something, but to start addressing the problem with a strong bill of the Stop School Violence Act that gives students, teachers, and law enforcement more tools to actively identify a potential shooter before a tragedy happens," Representative Steve Scalise (R., La.) said at a press conference after the bill was passed. "What we saw in Parkland was an example of so many breakdowns in government at the federal level, with the FBI, at the local level with local law enforcement. when so many students knew this was going to happen. I think the thing that irritates people the most is something wasn't done to stop it before it did happen. We need to focus on stopping those tragedies before they happen."
Scalise said the bipartisan nature of the bill shows how committed Congress is to preventing future school shootings.
"What you saw today was a 407 to 10 vote to specifically start addressing the problem to stop school violence," he said. "I think that overwhelming bipartisan vote shows how serious this bill is and, clearly, there's more things that need to be done. But this is one of those things that actually gets to the heart of addressing school violence before a tragedy happens."
The White House came out in support of the Stop School Violence Act as part of its plan to address school shootings, which was announced on Sunday. The bill now awaits action from the Senate where Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) have championed it as part of a response to the Florida shooting.
"Our schools are woefully unprepared to prevent an attack before it occurs," Rubio said in a statement. "Furthermore, during my visit to the site of the attack and my follow-up meeting with teachers at the school, I learned of various changes to school facilities and practices which could have stopped this attack or improved the response. Therefore, I will be joining Sen. Orrin Hatch in introducing the Stop School Violence Act. If passed, this law would provide federal grants to states to: strengthen school security, provide school training to identify threats, and create school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams (like the successful program in Los Angeles) that in coordination with law enforcement agencies and school personnel identify students or former students who may pose a threat of violence and intervene to stop them before they act."
As many of the other lawmakers backing the bill have cautioned, Hatch said he views the Stop School Violence Act as only part of the solution.
"To keep our children safe from harm, there is no panacea, no one legislative solution," Hatch said on the Senate floor. "And it disheartens me when I hear talk about what can't be done. It's time to focus on what can be done. Fortunately, solutions on the state level—including in my home state of Utah—can help show us the way forward."