Rutherford, Deutch lead on bipartisan legislation aimed at school violence

Bill has gained support.
Rep. John Rutherford, R-Jacksonville, speaks at a news conference on Feb. 27, 2018, announcing legislation targeting school violence (Alex Leary | Times)
Rep. John Rutherford, R-Jacksonville, speaks at a news conference on Feb. 27, 2018, announcing legislation targeting school violence (Alex Leary | Times)
Published Feb. 28, 2018|Updated Feb. 28, 2018

WASHINGTON – A large bipartisan group of Florida House members, led by Reps. John Rutherford and Ted Deutch, have rallied around a bill designed to identify prevent school violence

The Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act would "create a grant program to train students, teachers, school officials, and local law enforcement how to identify and intervene early when signs of violence arise, create a coordinated reporting system, and implement FBI and Secret Service-based school threat assessment protocols to prevent school shootings before they happen," according to Rutherford's office.

The bill was introduced before the Parkland shooting but has taken on new urgency, with more than 25 co-sponsors.

"This bill invests in early intervention and prevention programs in our local schools, so that our communities and law enforcement can be partners in preventing violent events from happening. We need to give students, teachers, and law enforcement the tools and training they need to identify warning signs and to know who to contact when they see something that is not right," Rutherford said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

"As I used to tell my community in Northeast Florida when I was sheriff: I don't want to be the best first responder to a mass casualty event. I want to stop these horrific events before they ever occur."

The bill would:

Reauthorize and expand the 2001 Secure Our Schools program through the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance, providing local law enforcement, school personnel and students with the tools they need to proactively prevent a threat. The legislation authorizes $50 million annually for state and local schools to make evidence-based investments in the development and operation of FBI & Secret Service-based school threat assessment teams to help schools to intake and triage threats before tragedy strikes; implement anonymous reporting systems for students in coordination with local law enforcement; administer training and technical assistance for students, school personnel and law enforcement to identify signs of violence and intervene early to prevent students from hurting themselves and others; facilitate coordination between schools and local law enforcement; and provide significant improvement in school security.

Florida co-sponsors include:

Gus Bilirakis [R-12], Vern Buchanan [FL-16], Carlos Curbelo [FL-26], Ted Deutch [FL-22], Mario Diaz-Balart [R-25], Lois Frankel [D-21], Matt Gaetz [R-1], Al Lawson [D-5], Brian Mast [R-18], Bill Posey [R-8], Thomas Rooney [R-17], Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-27], Dennis Ross [R-15], Darren Soto [D-9], Debbie Wasserman Schultz [D-23], and Frederica Wilson [D-24].