School Violence Act of 2018

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The Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018, or STOP School Violence Act is a bill designed to help reduce the amount of school violence through implementing a variety of safety measures. This bill was introduced in the 115th Congress at the end of January this year. While this bill is working to decrease school violence in the United States, it comes right before the Parkland Shooting in Florida that happened in February. It is in direct response to this shooting that this bill started gaining bipartisan support and started its legislative journey.

This bill proposes a policy to curb violence in our schools through a multilayered system to prevent violence from taking place in schools through identifying threats and preparing for them before something happens. Congressman Goodlatte, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee said, It provides much-needed resources to train students, teachers, and law enforcement officers on how to recognize and quickly respond to warning signs, and provides funding for technology to keep schools safe. Eighty percent of school shooters told someone of their violent plans or exhibited warning signs. It will ensure that students, teachers, and law enforcement will learn how to identify at-risk behaviors, properly assess threats, and intervene appropriately before a tragedy strikes (Goodlatte, 2018). The bill gives $50 million a year in funding for training to lessen student violence in all forms, including training for local police officers, school staff, and students. This prevention training will give students and staff the ability to notice suspicious behavior and respond effectively to warning signs of school violence including active shooter training drills. Part of the $50 million of funding will go towards new equipment and technologies to improve school security to prevent attacks. These include: creating and operating anonymous reporting systems, such as applications on smartphones, hotlines, and websites to report concerning activities. Part of the money may also be used for deterrence systems such as locks, lighting, metal detectors, and new technology to help prevent school violence. The bill provides the communication technology and installation of it for expedient notification systems to law enforcement agencies when an act of school violence is happening. The STOP School Violence Act also contains funding for threat assessment in schools and crisis intervention teams for school personnel to respond to threats before the threat mobilizes itself. Finally, the bill provides funding to support law enforcement coordination efforts and to officers who’re already in the schools (Goodlatte, 2018).

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The current policy on the issue is the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. This is an old and outdated bill that was originally signed by Lyndon Johnson to wiretap, expand the FBI, and do some other things unrelated to school safety. This is what the new STOP School Violence Act is piggy backing on and revising it to keep schools safe. Some shortcomings of current policy are that it does not provide enough funding to run the programs. It allowed for $30 million a year but the new policy uses $50 million to get the job done. There are also not enough anonymous reporting systems in place to help local agencies and the FBI to look into potential threats. We need to make changes because there has been almost as many mass shootings as there are days this year. As of November 8th, the 312th day of this year, there have been 307 mass shootings (Robinson, 2018). School shootings make up a number of these mass shootings that are seemingly occurring almost every day. School is a place where kids should be safe and not be worried about a shooter coming in.

The STOP School Violence Act amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. It will increase the amount of funding for programs in the Act from $30 million a year to $50 million a year. This funding will come from the Secure Our Schools Grant Program and be allowed through 2028. It will help schools make threat assessment systems created by the FBI to try to stop violent acts before they happen, create anonymous reporting systems to the police, and using new and innovative technologies and more personnel to help keep the schools safe (Rifkin, 2018).

There are measures to protect schools that have been implemented all over the place. It is hard to know whether or not a protection program works unless the school has been attacked and at that point, whatever they were doing had not worked to prevent the incident. At the Parkland shooting in Florida, there was an armed resource officer at the school that was not able to prevent the shooting from happening or stop it once it started. There are some schools in the state of Washington where they have implemented metal detectors and they have not had any school shootings at those schools. However, this is not sufficient evidence to say that metal detectors would deter attacks all over the country.

One drawback of the policy proposal is that it is a pretty large expenditure at $50 million a year. A drawback for more left leaning supporters is that it does not include more radical gun control. A drawback for right leaning supporters is that it doesn’t have the more radical proposal of arming teachers or hiring ex-military and law enforcement to stand as armed guards at the gates of the school. Some oppose the bill because they think that this bill is somewhat lip service and does not really fix the major underlying issue of more gun control. Even though some opposition think this, they still voted to pass this bill because they are in support of keeping schools safer. This bill only had 10 opposers that voted no in the House. All of these different measures have the goal of school safety, but some feel that the way to really make schools more safe is through gun control as well as these other measures.

This bill was introduced in a Republican led House and Senate with both chambers having a pretty strong majority of Republicans. However, this is quite a moderate proposal considering the contents of the bill, as well as looking at the support that it has received. This bill is sponsored by John Rutherford, a Republican from the 4th district in Florida. Rutherford previously served as a police officer before serving as a senator. This helps build rapport with his fellow Congressmen to gain support for the STOP School Violence Act. This bill has 100 bi-partisan cosponsors, 36 Democrats and 64 Republicans. This shows that this bill is pretty moderate in its contents, and has a large amount of bipartisan support in the House. This is why it flew through the House with nearly zero opposition.

A bill has a long way to go after it is written before it becomes a law. After a bill is written, it is then Introduced to the House of Representatives or the Senate, but usually in the House. The Speaker of the House then refers the bill to a committee. Once the House committee gets their hands on it, the committee then takes three actions. The first step is hearings where the committee listens to witnesses testify on behalf of the bill for the bill to gain some public support. The next step is markups where the writing up technical details and the legal languages of bill are added. The last step in the committees is reports, where arguments explaining and advocating for the bill on the floor are made. The committee can choose to do none of these things and bury bills that they don’t want to pass which is what happens to ninety percent of the bills that enter committees.

If the bill is lucky enough to pass this step, it is then debated on the House floor. Debate is limited by the rules committee and then voted on by the whole House. If the bill gets a majority vote of 218 or more, it is then sent off to the Senate to have much of the same thing happen. In the Senate, debate is unlimited and if both chambers agree to the same bill and vote to pass it, it is then given to the president to be signed. The president can then choose to sign the bill or not, and if he does, the bill finally passes and becomes a law. There are some cases where the House can pass a bill through by suspension of the rules or the Senate can use an unanimous consent agreement. This is just fast tracking a bill through that has little opposition.

The STOP School Violence Act of 2018 was first introduced in the house on January 1st of this year. After being introduced, it was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. The House Judiciary Committee is one of the oldest standing committees that is in charge of overseeing judicial proceedings, espionage, terrorism, impeachment, and the protection of civil liberties. (About the Committee, 2018). This is a committee with a wide scope of influence and reach in the House. On February 7th, the House Judiciary Committee referred the bill to the subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. This is obviously a good fit for the bill to go to since this bill is directly involved in all four main areas of this subcommittee.

About a month later, Congressman Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill as amended. He rose in strong support of the STOP School Violence Act and gave a summarization of the bill with an emphasis on why it is important for the bill to be passed. Suspension of the rules is a way to quickly get through bills that are not very controversial that have at least two thirds of the support of the House. After passing through a suspension of the rules, the bill passes the House and moves onto the Senate. The bill was then considered under suspension of the rules in the House. This consideration consisted of forty minutes of debate in the House. At the end of this debate, the Yeas and Nays votes were demanded and the Chair announced that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed (congress.gov, 2018). About an hour later, the bill was considered unfinished business. A subsequent vote on the bill in the House took place and the vote passed the suspension of the rules with 407 yes’s and 10 no’s. The rest of the house did not vote. To pass the suspension of the rules, the house only needs a 2/3 vote but this bill passed that threshold with no problem.

Finally, the speaker of the House had a motion to reconsider laid on the table agreed to without objection. The bill then passed onto the Senate the next day. This is where the bill has been stuck for the past eight months. The Senate received the bill, read it twice, and was then referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. This is the same type of committee that the bill was referred to in the House. In the Senate, the Committee on the Judiciary is in charge of oversight of the Department of Justice, review pending legislation, and considering executive nominations. The bill is stuck here and could possibly die because ninety percent of bills die in committees. Another possibility is that the bill has been pushed to the back burner in the rise of all of the hearings and cases in the controversial Supreme Court nomination Brett Kavanaugh. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary is in charge of holding hearings to confirm executive nominations and this committee has been very busy with the Kavanaugh case.

The bill has not become law yet because it has not passed the Senate and gotten signed by the President. It has been stuck in the Senate in the Judiciary Committee. This bill could possibly not have passed yet because it is not important enough. Congress has been very busy with many other bills and executive appointment confirmations as well as a third of the Senate running for re-election and the whole house working to get themselves re-elected. Now that the mid terms are over, it will be interesting to see what happens with this bill and whether or not it will move forward and get passed or die in the Senate. The Senate in the 116th Congress is led by an even larger majority Republican party which probably won’t have much of an effect on the outcome of this bill because it is such a moderate proposal. It was also sponsored by a republican and has a more Republican co-sponsors than Democrats. The Supreme Court hearings are now over as well which could possibly allow the Judicial Committee in the Senate to focus more on moving forward with this bill.

The bill had enough support in the House to lead me to believe that the reason it hasn’t passed is not because of insufficient support. The house voted almost unanimously to pass this bill along with only ten dissidents to the bill. There have also not been really any mass publicized school shootings recently since the Parkland shooting in Florida, which got this bill going and gave it a kick start. What it could possibly take to get this bill in the light of the Senate and the American people again is another detrimental publicized school shooting. As terrible as that sounds, that might be what it takes to get this bill some more national recognition and get it passed through the Senate. They have been very busy

This bill has obviously not become law yet, but I think that it will eventually become law. Even with the change of control in the House to the Democrat party in the 116th Congress, I think the bill will still pass. It has already passed the House of Representatives in the 115th and it is in the hands of the Republican led Senate. This is a bipartisan bill that has a lot of support from both sides of the aisle. Regardless of where it is in the law making process, I think it would pass. The only reason why it would not pass would be if other bills come and take priority over this one, but I think it will be hard to make another bill on such a sensitive issue as school safety that would be able to pass before this one. The change in party control of the House will not have any significant effect on the possibility of the bill passing. I think the bill has a pretty good chance of passing and becoming law in this 116th Congress.

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