Rubio: Congress should pass Luke and Alex School Safety Act to improve school safety

(The Center Square) – In the wake of Tuesday’s shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead at a Texas elementary school, some members of Congress are urging action on a measure they say would improve safety in the nation’s schools.

“The horrific tragedy in Texas should spur Congress to act on proposals that can pass and actually make a difference like our bipartisan Luke & Alex School Safety Act,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said after an 18-year-old man shot and killed 21 people in the Texas border town of Uvalde on Tuesday, the majority of whom were children attending Robb Elementary School.

Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rubio, and Sen. Rick Scott, also of Florida, introduced the bill last March. It passed the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in July 2021 and then went nowhere.

The bill would codify into law the Federal Clearinghouse on School Safety available at SchoolSafety.gov to inform parents and educators on expert recommendations and best practices schools can implement to improve school security. The clearinghouse also provides information on available federal resources and grant programs that can be used to fund the safety measures.

On Tuesday, Uvalde resident Salvador Ramos, 18, opened fire on children at the Robb Elementary School after first shooting his grandmother, who remained in critical condition at a local hospital Wednesday morning. At least 19 children were killed and multiple other injuries were reported. Romas was shot and killed by responding law enforcement. Victims were taken to Uvalde Memorial Hospital and University Hospital in San Antonio.

It remains unclear how a teenager with no apparent gun training or financial resources purchased the firearm he used to open fire and kill so many people.

Officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Rangers are working with local law enforcement to fully investigate the crime. The Texas Division of Emergency Management is also providing local officials with necessary resources.

The Luke and Alex School Safety Act is named after Luke Hoyer and Alex Schachter, two students killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. Luke and Alex’s parents, along with members of the group, “Stand with Parkland,” have “fought tirelessly for Congress to take common sense steps like the clearinghouse to prepare schools and protect students from harm in the event of an attack,” the senators said in a news release when introducing the bill.

“The Parkland shooting is a tragedy I will never forget, and I was proud of the work I was able to accomplish with the families and the previous administration to help ensure school districts have a reliable central authority, or clearinghouse, where evidence-based and successful models for school safety measures are available,”  Rubio said.

The Florida senator led a bipartisan, bicameral effort to urge the federal commission on school safety to include a clearinghouse in its recommendations, which it did.

“Information provided on SchoolSafety.gov will help teachers, school officials, and parents to improve safety measures and create a safe and supportive learning environment for students, while also demanding action if they believe their school needs to do more,” Johnson said.

Scott said he thinks about the victims of the Parkland shooting every day.

“Since that horrible day, I’ve worked closely with many of the victims’ family members as governor and now as senator to ensure no child, educator, or family has to experience that again,” he said.

The bill would amend Title XXII of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and require the Department of Homeland Security to create a federal clearinghouse database and collect data analytics to establish best practices for school safety nationwide. It instructs the secretaries of DHS, Education, and Health and Human Services, as well as the Department of Justice, to create the best practices and publish them online, to create an external advisory board to provide feedback and additional recommendations, and to seek parental and others’ input.

At a minimum, the school safety measures would include threat prevention, preparedness, protection, mitigation, incident response, and recovery, according to the bill summary. They would also include “any evidence or research rationale supporting the determination of the Clearinghouse that the best practice or recommendation has been shown to have a significant effect on improving the health, safety, and welfare of persons in school settings.”

Of the Robb Elementary School shooting, Scott said he and his wife “are heartbroken to hear about the horrific shooting at Robb Elementary School. No student should ever be afraid to go to school. The violence must end. We are praying for all of the victims, their families and all affected by this senseless act.”

Gov. Greg Abbott, who is providing an update on the situation later Wednesday, said, “Texans across the state are grieving for the victims of this senseless crime and for the community of Uvalde. Cecilia and I mourn this horrific loss and we urge all Texans to come together to show our unwavering support to all who are suffering. We thank the courageous first responders who worked to finally secure Robb Elementary School.”