A proposed law that would require every public school building to undergo an assessment in the next three years to protect against active shooters appears to be a common-sense approach that should garner bipartisan support.

State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, authored Senate Bill 100 which proposes that every school in the state undergo a risk and vulnerability assessment conducted by the Oklahoma School Security Institute by July 1, 2026. After the initial assessment, districts must coordinate with the Institute, which is a division of the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, to conduct re-assessments every five years.

A companion bill, Senate Bill 101, would appropriate $20 million from the state’s general revenue fund to create a grant program to help school districts and colleges and universities pay for needed security upgrades identified during the assessments.

An important component of this proposal is including funding behind it. School Safety Institute officials say that Oklahoma has a grant program that’s never been funded designed to help districts pay for needed security upgrades

The group also discovered that the School Safety Institute, which already is doing some site vulnerability assessments, is understaffed. The institute’s staff of eight has only assessed about 100 school buildings across Oklahoma in the past decade. Each assessment takes about a week to complete.

Pemberton said there are likely more than 2,000 school buildings statewide. He said the institute should be given the staffing and resources needed, which will cost an additional $1.5 million.

In the beginnings of the school shooting epidemic that has been going on across our country for 20 years, the thinking was that schools or law enforcement publicly talking about or dealing with how to reinforce schools was enhancing public opinion that schools aren’t safe. However, today’s reality is that parents and the general public expect to know just what is going on to enhance school safety in order to decrease the opportunities for school shootings to take place.

The proposal has support from the Oklahoma Education Association, which recognizes that funding is a key ingredient to helping schools make the safety enhancements needed.

We hope to see some constructive and productive discussion on this proposal in the upcoming legislative session.

Enid News & Eagle

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