A day before the Wednesday deadline for original floor action on bills from the opposite chamber, the Senate passed HB 1283, the “School Safety Act.”
The bill was authored by Representative Mark Baker and presented and defended in the Senate by Senator Brice Wiggins. It addresses the issue of active shooters entering a school, putting students, teachers, and administrators at risk. The bill would address the mental health needs of students at risk as well as give administrators the responsibility of conducting active shooter drills like you would a fire drill.
Like in the House, some Senators had a problem with mental health and active shooter curriculum being taught to young children.
“What if parents do not want their children exposed to mental health information at that particular age?” asked Senator Angela Hill.
Senator Wiggins responded, they can make their requests known to the school but if they don’t agree with the information being presented they have the choice to homeschool. This argument falls in line with amendments proposed by Rep. Bomgar and Rep. Criswell that would have allowed parents to “opt-out” of the active shooter drills, using different language. However, both of the amendments failed.
The bill should not require any additional funding from the Department of Education, sans $200,000 in order to fun three new analysts at the Mississippi Fusion Center.
As the Senate began offering amendments, Senators Watson and McDaniel offered one to strike lines 175-201, language that was added by the House committee but wasn’t included in the Governor’s initial task force assessment. The amendment passed by a voice vote.
The second amendment was offered by Senator Branning. It addresses standardized mental health screenings. Her amendment would ensure that any screenings be approved by a parent or legal guardian before performed.
Senator Norwood asked, “Would your amendment allow for administrators to suggest to parents that a screening might be necessary?”
“I’m not sure that the bill nor my amendment speaks to that but I imagine when a health issue is detected, a referral would be made to who that child would need to see,” said Sen. Branning.
Branning’s amendment passed.
One last amendment was offered by Sen. Jackson of the 32nd on the training of administrators, the amendment passed.
Wiggins pushed the necessity of this bill, saying that it’s clear that children are at risk of active shooters and it is a reasonable move to be proactive in protecting them with legislation like this.
The bill is passed on an almost unanimous vote, with Sen. Hopson voting present.