BY U.S. REP. ROGER WILLIAMS
Less than a month ago, American children were going to school with their friends, spending time with their families, and living their everyday lives. All of that quickly changed on Feb. 14 when 17 Americans were shot dead in a building in which they spend as much time as their own home.
For many students, school is a place of structure and stability. It’s a place where our country’s future leaders are learning to read and do math, studying to get into college, and cultivating lifelong friendships. However, schools have now become a place of fear, uncertainty, and, ultimately, a target for the darkest and most morally depraved individuals. Sadly, our unprotected schools have become targets for unruly terrorists.
My bill, HR 5107, will immediately provide the resources and funding necessary to secure our schools. The welfare and safety of our nation’s youth must be of the utmost importance. This legislation will authorize the secretary of education to create a grant program in order to provide local schools with the necessary funding to improve security.
Under this legislation, schools may apply for a grant from the Department of Education in order to conduct an independent security assessment. The results of this assessment will recommend improvements that would be eligible for funding from a department grant. Necessary improvements might include metal detectors, steel doors, bulletproof glass, emergency training, and additional law enforcement on the ground. Final decisions on the needs of each school will be made by local school leadership.
Tools and equipment such as these will make a significant difference in how schools are perceived. They will no longer be seen as soft targets for terrorists to attack and leave us broken and angry, wondering what we could have done to prevent such an act of hate. However, none of this is achievable under current law, which only intensifies the need for HR 5107.
Disappointingly, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have predictably shifted attention from the need to secure schools, creating an impasse on what can be done now to keep children safe. While that debate continues, Congress should take immediate action to secure our schools by prioritizing the safety and welfare of our students and teachers above all else.
Why is it that a building holding the youngest and the brightest is at the most risk for an attack? After the horrible tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001, our nation took action to address safety concerns by tightening airport security to ensure an attack of that magnitude could never happen again, so why can we not do the same for our schools?
The primary function of the Department of Education must be to protect our students, and my bill equips it to do so. We need to secure our schools; we cannot wait for another senseless act of terrorism to claim more innocent lives. After all, this is America’s future.
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams is a Republican from Austin. He represents Texas’s 25th Congressional District.