JEFFERSON CITY, MO. – The House held a Special Committee on Student Accountability at Noon, February 12. The public hearing included sponsorship from Rep. Chrissy Sommer for the Safe and Strong Schools Act. This bill would create an advisory council on school safety that would introduce statewide security measurements.
Sommer started working on this legislation a number of years ago, which she revisited last year. Reworking the legislation, Sommer managed to downsize it to an advisory council of seven people with each member appointed by the Governor, if passed.
“Society is changing and the needs of our children are changing,” Sommer said. “We need to always make sure we’re taking steps to ensure that we’re addressing the needs of the children and students so they can focus on learning and not necessarily their safety on a daily basis.”
According to Sommer, the advisory council would focus on safe school design and operation, gun violence prevention, mental health and wellness, school climate and discipline, physical security and emergency preparedness, substance abuse and gang intervention.
The council would hear from expert witnesses and special testimonies that would inform them on the issues that needed attention. After meeting, the advisory council would put together recommendations and provide them to the General Assembly. The advisory council would serve without compensation or any type of pay leaving a minimal fiscal note.
Sommer is confident in the success of the proposed advisory council due to her involvement in a similar program. In 2013, she was able to put together a council for gifted children that has helped influenced legislators to pass laws for education. Using this model, Sommer hopes to build an efficient advisory council for school safety.
“My idea is that this advisory council for safe and strong schools work under that same framework,” Sommer said. “We’re working to make sure that our children are not only safe, but that they feel safe in those schools. This can be anything going on within the schools, like mental health, it doesn’t have to be the safety issues of that building.”