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Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

House panel holds hearing on efforts to enhance school safety, preparedness

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Ongoing efforts to advance school security and emergency preparedness were the topic of a congressional hearing held on Wednesday that included testimony from government officials, educators, and police representatives.

U.S. Reps. Dan Donovan (R-NY) and Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), the respective chairman and ranking member of the U.S. House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, convened the hearing. Representatives of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DoJ), Department of Education (DoE), Staten Island Community Education Council and New Jersey Association of School Resource Officers.

“Securing our schools and ensuring a safe, healthy and productive learning environment for our kids is a priority for me and my colleagues in Congress,” Donovan said. “Our nation has seen too many incidents of violence this year alone. We must do everything necessary to strengthen school security by identifying challenges, prioritizing violence prevention, and ensuring resources reach our communities. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all fix, but collaborative dialogues will allow us to find the most effective policy solutions and ideas.”

Payne said he was “pleasantly surprised” to hear DoE Assistant Secretary Jason Botel tell the Federal Commission on School safety that research into the role of guns in school shootings would be undertaken.

“The federal government needs to do more to ensure children are safe in their classrooms and on their way to and from school,” Payne said. “…His testimony illustrates the continuing need for hearings that bring together stakeholders to explore ways federal, state, and local officials can help protect America’s school children.”

The hearing provided an opportunity to evaluate tools and protocols for school safety, implementation of smart security protocols and enhanced information sharing, and DHS sponsorship of tabletop exercises to help school districts plan for and mitigate threats.