Keeping Schools Safe ~ IN YOUR CORNER with SENATOR KATY IVES

Bu: State Senator Katy Ives – June, 2018

Senator Ives
Senator Katy O’Connor Ives

School shootings are becoming too common an occurrence across the country. The discussion of gun control and mental health treatment has surfaced as possible solutions and safety drills are now as common as fire drills. During this surreal time, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about a new technology which can be utilized as one tool among many to strengthen school safety. Shooter detection systems can be installed in new schools and retro-fitted in current schools. 

Shooter detection technology consists of a series of sensors, automated alerts through apps and cameras that provides police with the real-time location of a gunshot. Sensors are installed on walls, which can detect a gunshot via sound and light technology. Although, it does not prevent a shooting from occurring, it does provide instant location of the shooter. I was introduced to this technology through a bill filed by Senator Michael Rush that would mandate every new school built in the Commonwealth be equipped with this system. In fiscal year 2019 along with Senators Michael Rush and Bruce Tarr, I filed a budget amendment that would make this alert system available to all schools. With collaboration from Senator Sonia Chang Diaz we crafted an amendment that balanced the need for technology, as well as the need for prevention.

This amendment develops a school safety technical assistance team and a youth safety technical assistance team and grant program. The school safety team will provide schools with assistance on all aspects of school safety and emergency management through enhancing facilities with items like classroom door locks, security cameras and active shooter detection and real-time threat alert systems. The youth safety team will provide assistance on all aspects of gun violence prevention and management through youth programming and wrap around services targeted to prevent violence. The grant program for each of these teams that will be available at a 50-50 match between the applying entity and the state.

The funding for these grant programs will come from two sources. Funding will come from fines associated with the trafficking of firearms and a portion of the cost of a FID card application and renewal. Currently, FID cards cost $100, with the licensing authority retaining $25 of the fee, $25 of the fee is used for the Firearms Fingerprint Identity Verification Trust Fund and $50 of the fee is deposited in the General Fund. Under this amendment, $10 of that $50 which otherwise goes into the state’s general fund will be allocated to this grant program.

This is not a panacea, but rather an opportunity for schools to tap into funds that already exist to address the safety needs of their students. Now that this amendment was included in the final Senate budget, the amendment is part of the negotiations between the House of Representatives and Senate budget conferees as they craft the final version of the FY19 state budget. I will be advocating that this critical amendment be included in the final budget.

Senator O’Connor Ives can be contacted at: KATHLEEN.OCONNORIVES@MASENATE.GOV