CHEYENNE – In an overwhelming floor vote, the state House of Representatives killed a school security bill Friday because of what some called an unfunded, and unneeded, mandate on schools.
Senate File 64, sponsored in the interim session by the Joint Education Committee, died on its first vote in the House on a 43-13 vote. The bill was passed out of the Senate 19-11 last month and received unanimous support from the House Education Committee this past week.
The bill would have required the Wyoming Department of Education, in collaboration with relevant state agencies, to create security guidelines for school districts to implement at the local level. It also would have made all school district employees undergo training that would prepare them for a violent intruder attack.
Opponents of the bill, including House majority leadership, said SF 64 was an unnecessary, and unfunded, mandate for schools. SF 64 was amended Friday to remove a requirement that plans be developed annually and for plans to include areas like a school’s bus barn. But those changes weren’t enough to convince the vast majority of representatives to get behind the bill.
Speaker of the House Steve Harshman, R-Casper, said schools were already doing this, and the state didn’t need to create unnecessary mandates. He referred to Natrona County High School, where he’s a teacher and football coach, and said there are already staff members whose jobs are to fill out forms. Harshman said this bill would mean another person would have to sit around and fill out reports to meet state demands.
“We come down and say, ‘You’ve got to report on this.’ They’re already doing all of this. I’ve already done all of this training. It’s fantastic training,” Harshman said. “This is, I think, a whole lot of sound and fury that signifies nothing.”
House Speaker Pro Tempore Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, said there was no need to mandate new plans because the work had been done already, whether in Wyoming or in states like Colorado. Even though he understood the sentiment behind the bill, he said SF 64 was just redundant and unnecessary.
“This work has been done,” Sommers said. “Has every school done everything that’s needed to satisfy this? Maybe, maybe not. But the planning has been done.
“This is just repeating stuff that’s been done. And, frankly, I think all it does is create a load of work for our districts and one more report required.”
Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, carried SF 64 on the House floor and tried to convince his colleagues to support the bill. He said while some school districts might already have these plans, others didn’t, and this bill would make sure every student is going to a school that has worked on increasing safety and security.
He didn’t want SF 64 to die just because there is a report included in the language and because of the idea it took local control away from school districts. Brown pointed out the bill had developed over the process to include concerns from smaller school districts to ensure they’d have the resources to develop these plans.
“We’re asking them to develop a comprehensive safety and security plan. The idea that every school is doing this is absolutely, 100 percent false. We do not have every school falling in line with a school safety and security plan,” Brown said. “Do you really want to walk away, and go back to your constituents when you leave here in just a few short weeks and say, ‘We didn’t do anything to address school safety and security?’”
With the defeat in the House, SF 64 is done for this session and would have to be brought back up another year.