--In response to last session’s report by the Select Committee on School Safety and Security and the growing concern over the security of our schools, Rep. Joe Hackett (R-Delaware), along with Rep. Sid Kavulich (D-Lackawanna), held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss plans for legislation to increase school safety while reducing unfunded mandates on our school districts.
“Pennsylvania law requires schools to have emergency management plans in place and to conduct monthly fire drills,” Hackett said. “But there is no requirement that emergency plans be rehearsed or that faculty, staff and students know what to do in the event of a security issue. In these trying times, the only way to be sure proper procedures are followed is to practice them regularly.”
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are fewer than five fatalities per year in school-related fires, but far more fatalities caused by violent occurrences in schools. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Safe Schools Initiative, it is 35 times more likely that children in Pennsylvania schools will be involved in incidents with guns, knives and bombs, rather than burned by a fire.
“Language for this legislation is still in the developmental stage; however, the goals specifically aim to lessen the mandate on our schools,” Hackett said.
In short, Hackett’s proposed legislation would protect children by adding two emergency drills per year while reducing the number of mandated fire drills. Each drill would be done in cooperation with local law enforcement and the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) with the local jurisdiction. A review of each drill would be completed by the district superintendent, chief law enforcement officer within the local jurisdiction and emergency management coordinator, who will then certify, in writing, that such drill was conducted.
Certification of completion of the required drills must be submitted and received by the Department of Education by the end of the school year. Failure to comply would result in reprimand of the district’s superintendent.
“Nothing is more important than keeping our children safe,” Hackett said. “Preparation and knowledge are an essential part of school curriculum, especially preparing for emergencies we hope will never happen. But we must know what to do if confronted with a crisis. Requiring schools to regularly rehearse and evaluate their security procedures is a small investment considering the priceless assets at stake.”
Representative Joe Hackett
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster