Ever since I introduced House Bill 896, I have been receiving calls and e-mails from parents who are frustrated with the lack of security at their children's schools. Stories abound about parents who were able to "walk right in." One parent told me that "they just buzzed me in without asking who I was, and three people walked in behind me."
Since I embarked on this mission to somehow legislate our schools into taking the proper steps to secure themselves, I have been confronted with three major themes:
•Unfunded mandates are unacceptable;
•Pennsylvania is a "local control" state;
•It's just too darn expensive.
•Since the Sandy Hook tragedy, at least three school shootings ago, I have met with many of the local school superintendents and, for the most part, have been impressed with their desire to do the right thing. Many of them have taken steps to hire professional consultants or have reached out to the local police departments for advice, and have looked to properly train their staff.
•Others, unfortunately, seem to be relying on the seemingly low-percentage chance that they will be confronted with an event. They have taken some affirmative steps, but seem to lack the urgency of their counterparts.
•The situation that this creates is that your child's school may be more or less secure than the schools in the district right next to yours. This is local control as it relates to school safety.
•Another problem, as I see it, is that school board members and school administrators who have little or no expertise in security matters are making decisions and expending substantial funds on security enhancements that will ultimately have little impact during a crisis.
I was fortunate to have been able to participate on the Select Committee for School Safety. This committee held hearings over the past several months, and produced a report that provided school districts with recommendations that were born from the testimony of experts in everything from bullying and mental health to active shooter situations. (You can view this report at repmikeregan.com.) I am hopeful that this report will provide proper guidance for districts to make sound decisions regarding our children's security.
But again, it will be up to each district to follow it.
I spent 23 years of my life being involved in the security of federal buildings as a U.S. Marshal. I am acutely aware that developing a fool-proof security plan without unlimited funding is nearly impossible. So what you do is implement proven methods and do everything you can to mitigate loss.
In HB 896, I adapted the federal model, which has experienced great success across the nation in protecting federal employees and the court family, and applied it to the school environment.
The argument against it is that it will cost approximately $90 million per year. I realize that this will take some reprioritizing and sacrifice. But I believe that, if it stops just one tragedy or saves the life of just one child, it's money well spent.
We spend a lot more money on things much less important. The time to protect our kids is now.
-- State Rep. Mike Regan represents the 92nd District, which includes parts of York County.