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Democratic lawmakers make pitch for safer schools

Democratic lawmakers announced today they are filing companion bills in the House and Senate to make schools safer, including more money for school resource officers and psychologists, and gun control measures they say could keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous or immature people. The announcement followed a similar plan laid out by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.

Aspects of the bill, called “Safer Schools, Healthier Kids Act,” include allowing the court to take away a gun from someone who was a threat to themselves or others for a period of time, raising the age from 18 to 21 for purchasing an assault type firearm, banning bump stocks, and increasing funding for school resource officers, psychologists, and counselors. 

Lawmakers at the press conference today indicated some of these measures might be in the budget, but it was unlikely the pieces related to gun control would be included by Republicans. Democratic members said they had no idea how much funding might be in the budget. Republican leaders are taking the unusual strategy this session of using an old bill eligible for consideration during the short session and replacing it with the budget bill. This bill will be a conference report, meaning no amendments will be allowed. That is a departure from how the budget has been decided in other General Assembly sessions.

Democrats said Republican leaders are hammering out the details of the budget behind closed doors largely without their input. Today, Republican leaders in the House said the budget bill proposal would likely be available sometime towards the end of this weekend and that votes in a joint appropriations committee and on the House floor were expected next week. The 2018 budget, a revision of the two-year budget passed last year, is supposed to only be tweaked during this short session, according to Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, and others. 

The actions to improve school safety follow work performed by a committee on school safety that came into existence following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida and met regularly prior to the short session. The committee studied what it would take to keep schools safe, and approved a number of recommendations for a report to the General Assembly including expansion of SPK UP NC application, an anonymous tip line that allows students to report suspicious behavior, measures to increase support for students’ social and emotional needs, implementation of threat assessment teams in schools, and changes in criminal laws, as well as more school resource officers, counselors, nurses, and social workers.

In the video below, watch the Democratic press conference on their proposed bill. In order of appearance, members are: 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.