General Assembly passes Mattiello, Gallo legislation to improve safety at public schools

STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today passed legislation introduced by Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) and Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) to examine the safety of Rhode Island’s schools and to ensure that school safety plans are adopted in each school department. The measure now moves to the governor’s office.

The bill (2018-H 7694A, 2018-S 2639A) would codify the existence of the Rhode Island School Safety Committee into state law, and require that school districts provide the committee with safety assessments every three years for review and recommendations.

“Every school district in the state is required to conduct a safety assessment of each of its school buildings,” said Speaker Mattiello. “It’s come to our attention that many districts have either procrastinated in completing these assessments or have shirked them altogether. In today’s climate, where the safety and security of our schools has become such a grave concern to parents, educators and public officials, these assessments simply cannot be neglected.”

The function of the 12-member School Safety Committee would be to provide training to law enforcement, school administrators and teachers; collect and review all hazard safety security assessments; and offer recommendations and assistance to each school district of every town, city, and regional school department in an effort to increase the safety of students and faculty.

“There is nothing more pressing right now than school safety,” said Senator Gallo, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Education. “We have laws in place requiring comprehensive school safety plans regarding crisis intervention, emergency response, and management. But we need to know that no school district is dropping the ball on this issue. We need to keep our students safe, and we’re going to make sure it’s getting done.”

The committee would include the following officials or their designees: the superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police, who would serve as chairperson of the committee; the president of the Police Chiefs Association; the director of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency; the commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; a representative from the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association,; the director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals; the state fire marshal; a representative of the Rhode Island Association of School Maintenance Directors; a representative from the Rhode Island Association of School Principals; a representative from the Rhode Island Association of School Committees; a representative from the National Education Association of Rhode Island; and one representative from the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals.