Keeping our kids safe at school has been on our minds since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Now one Oklahoma lawmaker wants to beef up school security here by adding more safety officers. And he has a plan to pay for it.
Right now, under Oklahoma law, school bond money can only go toward long-term investments, like building projects and school buses. But State Rep. Joe Dorman, (D) - Rush Springs, is proposing a bill that would allow bond money to hire security officers or pay for safety upgrades.
Minco Superintendent Kevin Sims is like most administrators after the Sandy Hook tragedy. He's looking for new ways to beef up security in his own district.
"This tragedy certainly has created a firestorm, if you will, of school security issues," Sims said.
Nearly 600 kindergarten thru 12th grade students go to Minco Public Schools, but the district doesn't have a full-time security officer on campus.
"Here we've talked to a couple police officers who have expressed interest," Sims says. "Budget wise, it's difficult to do that."
It's a challenge many other small school districts in Oklahoma are facing too.
"I represent 14 schools in my district, and only one has a resource officer. That's a shared position with the city," Dorman said.
Dorman is proposing a bill that would amend the constitution to allow a new type of school bond to pay for safety improvements, like hiring an on-campus officer.
"It's going to be up to each individual district because one might want one resource officer for their entire campus, [or] some might want one for each building," Dorman said.
The bonds would still need at least 60 % of the vote to pass in each district.
Dorman also plans to cap the amount of money that can be raised for security upgrades to avoid frivolous spending. While many districts already have school resource officers, the bill could help pay for changes in other districts working to keep its kids safe.
"I am in favor for anything that will help our schools be safer and more secure," Sims said.
Dorman is also working with OSBI for another bill he's proposing. House Bill 2228 would allow schools to use fingerprint background checks on anyone interacting with students, including volunteers.
The legislative session begins Feb. 4.