Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the following remarks on the House floor on the STOP School Violence Act:
“I rise today in support of H.R. 4909, the STOP School Violence Act, as amended. But, I do so with serious concerns about some of its provisions and what the bill fails to do. H.R. 4909 would authorize $50 million annually for grants administered by the Department of Justice to fund various training and other initiatives intended to enhance school safety. And it would authorize another $25 million annually to be used for other related purposes, including physical improvements such as metal detectors, better locks, and systems for schools to notify law enforcement of emergencies.
“We certainly should do more to make our schools safer, but it is shameful that we must do so because of our failure to reduce the threat of gun violence to children. It should be unacceptable to all of us that we must take steps to train staff and students to protect themselves against these types of incidents, instead of spending more money on actually educating our young people.
“This bill does not include any provisions to strengthen our gun laws or to help keep guns out of the hands of those who should not possess them. Evidence and experience tell us that we must establish universal background checks instead of the flawed system we now have. We should encourage states to adopt laws providing for extreme risk protection orders. And, we must ban assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines. These steps would help prevent not only school shootings, but would reduce the daily toll of gun violence in our communities.
“None of these critical provisions are included in this bill, which was never examined by the Judiciary Committee, either through a hearing or a legislative markup session. Had we taken these steps, which we could have done quickly in the exactly one month since the tragic Parkland, Florida shooting, we could have produced a much better bill for floor consideration.
“The suspension version of the bill does include an explicit prohibition against the funds being used on firearms or firearms training. Because President Trump and others in his Administration have indicated that they believe arming teachers is part of the solution to this problem, it was important to my colleagues and me that we be assured that this program, at least, will not be used for such a purpose which would actually endanger students, not make them safer.
“However, we should have addressed serious concerns that have come to our attention with respect to the anonymous tip reporting systems and threat assessment and intervention teams that would be funded by this bill. We want people to report information about someone who may present a danger to students, but the bill does not include requirements that these systems provide adequate due process protections for students against whom a report is made.
“Furthermore, I have longstanding concerns about the increased use of law enforcement in schools. History tells us that without proper training, use of such policies has a disproportionate impact on students of color and students with disabilities. In the decades since Columbine, when the nation rushed to increase school-based law enforcement efforts, thousands of vulnerable students have entered the school-to-prison-pipeline for conduct that should be treated as routine behavior violations. Therefore, I fear that efforts to increase school-based law enforcement without guardrails to ensure it is done well and based on strong evidence will repeat the mistakes of the past.
“My concern is only heightened by the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to remove important tools to ensure states and school districts understand their civil rights obligations when disciplining students. I urge Secretary DeVos and Attorney General Sessions to maintain current discipline and school resource officer guidance to ensure implementation of this bill does not exacerbate the school to prison pipeline.
“We should have had the opportunity to address these important issues through consideration in Committee, but we did not.
“Like the sponsors of this bill, I want Congress to do more to make our schools safer. Therefore, I will support this bill today, notwithstanding the serious concerns I have outlined, with the hope that we will address these issues going forward. I reserve the balance of my time.”
“Today young people across the country are taking a stand and calling upon this Congress to do something about the scourge of gun violence that has terrorized our schools and our streets for too long. This bill fails to do so and it should not – it cannot – be our only response to their demands.
“We must make schools safer, but the best way to do that is to do more to prevent gun violence from occurring in the first place. Congress MUST do more to stop gun violence. It is not enough to say that staff and students must do more to protect themselves.
“It is time to take decisive action to stop gun violence in our communities. You are faced with a simple choice, Mr. Speaker, will you stand with these young people who are demanding action? Or will you stand with the NRA?”