Education News

Iowa House passes bill to allow armed school staff and fund security officers

The Iowa House of Representatives has passed a bill that would enable school districts to arm their staff members and provide funding for security officers. The bill, known as the Students First Safety Act, aims to enhance school safety and prevent mass shootings.

What does the bill propose?

The bill would create a new professional permit to carry weapons on school grounds for school employees who volunteer to undergo extensive training and background checks. The training would include active shooter drills, medical response, and firearm proficiency. The bill would also grant liability protection to schools that choose to implement this option.

The bill would also require school districts with more than 8,000 students to hire at least one school resource officer or security officer for each high school. The state would provide $10 million in grants to help cover the costs of hiring and training these officers.

The bill would also establish a school safety advisory council to review and recommend best practices for school security. The council would consist of representatives from various state agencies, education groups, law enforcement, and mental health professionals.

Iowa House passes bill to allow armed school staff and fund security officers

Why did the bill pass?

The bill was supported by the majority of Republicans in the House, who argued that it would give schools more flexibility and autonomy to protect their students and staff. They cited examples of other states that have similar laws and claimed that they have deterred or stopped potential shooters.

Rep. Phil Thompson, a Republican from Boone, said the bill recognizes that the responsibility of school safety must be taken very seriously. “The strict training regimen outlined in this bill ensures that the employees who acquire this permit are equipped with the skills and the proficiency to act appropriately in the event of an emergency,” he said.

Rep. John Wills, a Republican from Spirit Lake, said the bill would save lives when cowards attack the kids. He said his district had briefly armed its staff members, but had to stop after the insurance carrier threatened to drop coverage. He said he hopes the bill will become law soon and encourage more insurance companies to offer policies to schools that opt for this option.

House Republican Leader Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley said the bill is based on the principle that seconds count when there is a shooting. “People with bad intentions are going to do bad things,” he said. “People with good intentions are there to stop them.”

How did the opponents react?

The bill was opposed by the minority of Democrats in the House, who argued that it would increase the risk of accidents, injuries, and deaths in schools. They said the bill would not address the root causes of gun violence, such as mental health issues, domestic abuse, and easy access to firearms. They also said the bill would divert resources from education and create a hostile and fearful environment for students and staff.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, said the bill would reduce the liability risk for insurers, but would allow a frightening number of guns in Iowa schools. “If a student is hurt or killed in crossfire, no one will be held accountable,” she said.

Rep. Sami Scheetz, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the bill is not the answer to gun violence. “Let’s enact extreme risk laws, responsible firearm storage laws, raise the age to purchase semi-automatic firearms to 21 and require background checks on all gun sales,” he said.

Rep. Lindsay James of Dubuque said the bill is out of touch with the majority of Iowans who want common sense gun safety laws. “And the Republican solution to combat gun violence is more guns,” she said.

What are the next steps?

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate. The Senate has not yet taken up a similar bill that was introduced earlier this session. The Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny, said he has not decided whether to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. He said he wants to hear from his caucus and the public before making a decision.

The bill also needs the approval of Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican who has expressed support for school safety measures, but has not endorsed the specific provisions of the bill. She said she will review the bill carefully if it reaches her desk.

The bill has also drawn mixed reactions from various stakeholders, such as school administrators, teachers, parents, students, and advocacy groups. Some have praised the bill for giving schools more options and resources, while others have criticized the bill for putting more guns and danger in schools.


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