House Republicans discuss school safety after bipartisan passage of the STOP School Violence Act

In January, Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL) introduced the STOP School Violence Act (H.R. 4909) to help communities and law enforcement prevent school violence before it takes place.

Just two weeks later, the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida brought national attention to the very issue Rep. Rutherford, a former sheriff in Duval County, was addressing.

Today  — with overwhelmingly bipartisan support — we passed the STOP School Violence Act, voting to empower students, teachers, school officials, and law enforcement to identify individuals with the propensity to commit acts of violence. And to intervene before they do.

This is one of the many ways House Republicans are reaffirming our commitment to keeping America the best place to live, work, and raise a family.

Moments after the STOP School Violence Act passed the House, several House Republicans and members of House Republican Leadership gathered for a press conference to highlight the importance of strengthening school safety.

House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA):

“Every parent should be able to trust that when we drop our kids off at school, it will be a safe place for them to learn, make friends, and find their purpose. That trust was broken in Parkland, Florida, at Freeman High School in Eastern Washington, and in the communities of Columbine, Sandy Hook, and too many others.

When that trust is broken, our communities are left broken, too. In these moments, we need to take a collective step back, and ask the question, ‘Why?’ …in my community it meant that we came together with local superintendents, principals, and law enforcement officers — and we asked the questions:

‘Why?’ ‘What’s causing our young people to feel so lost or alone?’ And worse, ‘what’s leading them to choose violence?’

These questions do not have clear answers, but as we keep having courageous conversations with one another, I’m hopeful that we’ll have more ideas like Sheriff John Rutherford’s idea, the STOP School Violence Act.

These are the kind of ideas that will help our local communities prevent, recognize, and respond when there are warning signs of violence.  

Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL):

“The action that the House just took is an important step forward in protecting our children, our teachers, and other administrators within our schools. It is going to not only harden the target through technology, but most importantly it’s going to provide the tools and education needed by those in our schools to recognize these individuals who have a propensity to become active shooters.

“As sheriff back in Duval County, I always told my community and my officers that I did not want to be the best first responder to an active shooter event. We must prevent it before it occurs. That’s what this bill does — that’s the goal of this bill: to provide prevention within our schools.”

House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA):

“One of our highest priorities as legislators is to protect those who are vulnerable, especially children. When students go to school fearing for their safety, we need to take action to protect them from harm. I applaud the passage of the STOP School Violence Act, which takes a multi-faceted approach to the epidemic of school violence that has shocked the nation. This bill empowers students, teachers, and law enforcement and trains them how to recognize and respond to warning signs. With increased training, technology, and coordination with law enforcement, we can be better prepared to defend students from violence and respond quickly and effectively to threats as they arise. No student should ever have to go to school in fear. We will continue to listen to students, teachers, and administrators to examine the issue of school safety and improve the classroom environment for our nation’s children. This bill is a great first step.”

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA):

“At a time when people are asking Washington to do something, Congress took action today to not just do something, but to start addressing the problem with a strong bill, the STOP School Violence Act, that gives students, teachers, and law enforcement more tools to actively identify a potential shooter before a tragedy happens. What we saw in Parkland was an example of so many breakdowns in government — at the federal level with the FBI, at the local level with local law enforcement, when so many students knew this was going to happen. I think what irritates people the most is that something wasn’t done to stop it before it did happen. We need to focus on stopping those tragedies before they happen, as Sheriff Rutherford said. I want to commend Sheriff Rutherford for his leadership to put a coalition together that was incredibly bipartisan. What you saw today was a 407-10 vote to specifically start addressing the problem to stop school violence. I think that overwhelming bipartisan vote shows how serious this bill is.”

House Ethics Committee Chair Susan Brooks (R-IN):

“It was one month ago today, and we were reminded of that today with the hundreds of thousands of students that walked out of classes today. We all stand here believing and working to try to ensure that these schools can be safe, and we need to make sure our schools are safe. We hear these students. We hear the families. We are listening.

“This bill is one important step, it’s not the first step we’ve ever taken. I’m in my sixth year in Congress. In the 21st Century Cures Act we actually voted to ensure that there are school intervention teams and more funding for school resources for mental health. This won’t be the last step that we will take as a Congress. It is important and we are listening. We are listening to the kids. We are listing to their families. We’re listening to law enforcement like Sheriff Rutherford who have devoted his life, he has devoted his life to protecting and serving our communities just like other law enforcement officers.

“But what I read in my paper this morning was a new movement called Walk Up, not just out. And what Walk Up is about, it’s about students walking up to those other students in school who might be alone. It’s about students walking up and talking and sharing becoming friends with people who have no friends. It is about all of us as a community recognizing that we do have troubled people and troubled students in our midst.

“On the night of the shooting one of my school districts responded to over 100 anonymous reports that came into that school district that night. Teachers worked throughout the night to try and make sure, working with law enforcement, that there school was going to be safe the next day. And it was. This bill focuses on, also, improving and increasing the number of anonymous systems that are out there. It’s just one thing among many other good things that are in this bill. I want to applaud Sheriff Rutherford and our colleague Representative Deutch for introducing this bill one week before Parkland happened. We will not forget. We are taking a critical step and we are listening to the students and their families.”

House Small Business Committee Chair Steve Chabot (R-OH):

“Our nation’s schools have too often become soft targets for any would-be killer with a gun. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting our children and this legislation that we just walked off the floor and passed today is a big step in that direction. By reauthorizing the Cops Secure Our Schools grant program for the next ten years and more than doubling the funding available for the program we are helping to give schools and local law enforcement the tools they need to make our schools safer and more secure.”

“I’d also like to note that Attorney General Sessions just announced that the Justice Department will use the COPS Hiring Program to increase the number of school resource officers nationwide.That announcement coupled with the legislation that we just passed today will go a long way towards making sure that our schools have both the security measures and personnel in place to prevent future violence. I’d also like to thank Leader McCarthy, Chairman Goodlatte, Congressman Rutherford, and many others for their leadership on this issue. I’d especially like to recognize and thank the President of Cincinnati FOP, Dan Hills, for sharing his commonsense proposal to improve school safety.”

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO):

“I represent families that know all too well the impact violence has on our communities. So as we gather here today, we do so in the name of parents, students, and teachers across our nation who, like us are concerned about school safety and are committed to finding commonsense solutions.

“No parent should ever have to wonder if their child is safe at school. This bill seeks to provide the funding necessary to improve school security both physical and technological, reaffirm continued coordination with law enforcement agencies, and improve communication channels between students and school officials.

“In my home state, such programs as the Safe2Tell initiative have already proven positive in helping those in need, and I look forward to further exploring similar initiatives made possible in this bill.

“…I want Coloradans and Americans across the country to know that Congress is taking action to stop school violence, and I commend my colleagues here for helping get this bill across the finish line…I challenge my colleagues, as well as students, parents, and teachers to keep the national conversation going. When we all stand shoulder to shoulder with each other, there is nothing we as a people or as a nation can’t accomplish.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA):

“What we just witnessed on the House floor, was the result of hard work of many members. This wasn’t something that just was started a month ago — this was started back in October. Bipartisan, the Sandy Hook Promise as well.  I do want to thank former Sheriff of Jacksonville, Representative Rutherford. And I want you to understand what “STOP School Violence” stands for. “STOP” is an acronym for students, teachers, officers, prevention act. You see, we worked with everybody in producing this bill, and that was the right way to go about it.  

“That’s why on this floor you saw a vote of 407 members voting, ‘yes.’ You don’t always see that everyday on the floor. But I also want to give a little shoutout to those members that have been such a big part of this bill and other legislation as well. First of all, you just heard from Chairman Chabot, Susan [Brooks], Bost, Kay Granger, Luke Messer, of course, Mr. Coffman — their work, putting into this bill, and others was of great importance. Because what this bill will do, it provides the grants for evidence-based training to prevent school violence.  But that’s not the only thing this Congress is doing.

“This Congress has a bill sitting over in the Senate dealing with the National Instant Criminal Background Check, that we found … that had failed in a shooting in Texas not that long ago. But it wasn’t — the failure was on the military. We want to make sure we close that hole as well. And then, if you saw also, where we had Chairman Goodlatte up here, he’s already had hearings when it came to the FBI. One month ago, we were all in shock. We were also upset. And what … even made it worse was when we found that the FBI had been warned twice, five months prior, that this could’ve been prevented. The legislation today we hope prevents more… prevents from this ever happening again — that any more would ever happen across the United States.  

“So I do want to thank the Sheriff for continuing to do his work to protect those, and including everybody in the process.”