Raleigh, N.C. — A bill to upgrade security at North Carolina public schools unanimously passed the House on Thursday after its sponsors removed provisions that would pay for school resource officers, counselors and classroom panic buttons.
Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, one of the primary sponsors, vowed that the $34 million earmarked for those items over the next two years would be included in the state budget. He said it was important to move House Bill 452 to the Senate so that other elements could be considered.
"Without safety in our schools, nothing else really matters," Holloway said.
Measures that remained in the stripped-down bill include establishing anonymous tip lines for each school, requiring schools to develop more comprehensive emergency plans and hold annual safety exercises, and providing local law enforcement with schematic drawings of and master keys to each school.
The bill originally called for using $20 million to provide a 2-1 match for local funding so school districts could hire school resource officers for middle and elementary schools and pay for additional training for officers already on staff.
School districts still have the option, under the bill approved Thursday, of using retired law enforcement officers or military personnel as volunteer school resource officers. They would be vetted by and work under the guidance of the local sheriff's office.
Another $10 million included in the original bill would have helped districts pay for more guidance counselors, psychologists and social workers. Supporters have said the added personnel would help identify troubled students who might pose a threat.
Also, $4 million that was removed from the bill would have been used to install panic buttons or similar alarms, directly connected to local law enforcement, in every classroom in the state by July 2015.
Even without those elements, Holloway said, the bill is the most comprehensive effort nationwide to boost school security in the wake of the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 first-graders and six faculty members dead.