School safety funding moves forward in Delaware General Assembly
State Senators advanced legislation on Wednesday to invest millions of dollars in school safety enhancements - including adding constables or police officers to First State schools.
The investments are outlined in two GOP sponsored bills that cleared committees Wednesday.
State Rep. Kevin Hensley’s (R-Odessa/Townsend) bill allows schools to use dollars from Delaware’s School Safety and Security Fund to hire constables and other types of law enforcement to patrol their campuses.
State Senator Dave Lawson’s (R-Marydel) measure appropriates $65 million for schools to use on building enhancements such as bulletproof glass and keycard devices at school entrances.
The bills - presented as an alternative to the slate of gun control bills making their way through the General Assembly - drew criticism as a misguided way to protect students from school shootings. ACLU of Delaware Senior Policy Advocate Shannon Griffin also argues stricter security could undermine student trust.
“The bill empowers schools to screen students and their belongings," she said. "Presumably, this screening would detect contraband, but the negatives of eroding trust among students and making them feel like criminals undermine any positive impacts this bill could have.”
Delaware State Education Association legislative director Kristin Dwyer says her organization – which represents teachers statewide – supports both bills, though she recognizes their grim implications.
“We need to balance the improvement of the physical security of our schools without compromising the values and principles around learning," she said. "Schools weren’t built to be prisons or to be structures where we are screening kids in this manner, and unfortunately that’s why these things happen.”
Funding will theoretically be part of the state’s Bond Bill, which is still in committee.