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House passes school safety bill amid student protests

By
Danielle Haynes
The House passed a school safety bill Wednesday that provides funds for training to stop acts of school violence before they happen. The legislation doesn't address gun control, something thousands of students called for as they walked out of school. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
The House passed a school safety bill Wednesday that provides funds for training to stop acts of school violence before they happen. The legislation doesn't address gun control, something thousands of students called for as they walked out of school. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 14 (UPI) -- The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a school safety measure that, while not including any gun control measures, seeks to prevent shootings like the one that killed 17 people last month at a school in Parkland, Fla.

The Students, Teachers and Officers -- or STOP -- School Violence Act authored by Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., passed with a vote of 407-10. The legislation had more than 75 co-sponsors from both parties.

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The bill would authorize $50 million in grant funding each year for schools to train students, teachers and law enforcement officials on how to recognize and report threats of gun violence. It also would also authorize $25 million for schools to improve security features like locks, lights, metal detectors and panic buttons.

"These appalling events are avoidable, but we must give schools the tools and resources they need," Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Texas, one of the co-sponsors, said on the House floor. "There may not be one single answer to preventing all future violence in schools, but this effort is very much a part of the solution."

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The bill doesn't appropriate the funds but they could be included in the upcoming omnibus spending bill.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced a companion bill in the Senate, which also has bipartisan support.

A statement from the office of the White House press secretary said President Donald Trump applauded the House's passage of the bill.

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"This legislation helps protect our nation's youth and educators by authorizing State-based grants that will support evidence-based violence prevention programs," the statement read. "It is critical that we strengthen our laws in order to aid our law enforcement, address the needs of individuals struggling with serious mental illness, and develop proactive strategies for identifying and preventing violence in schools."

The passage comes as thousands of students across the United States walked out of their schools Wednesday on the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

More than 3,100 schools participated in solidarity with the Parkland, Fla., school where 17 students and faculty were killed by 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, who opened fire on Valentine's Day with an AR-15 assault rifle.

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