A top state lawmaker said Massachusetts residents should check with their local school districts to make sure their schools are safe in the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Fla.
House majority leader Ronald Mariano shepherded a 2014 bill through the state House of Representatives that tightened gun regulations and included provisions to increase school safety.
“I think [people] should check with their school superintendents to make sure that the preventive policies that we tried to institute are being done,” said Mariano, a Quincy Democrat.
The bill, which followed the Sandy Hook school shootings, was signed in August 2014. It included a number of provisions intended to make schools safer, Mariano’s office said, including:
■ Requiring schools to develop plans to address the general mental health needs of students and staff
■ Directing the Massachusetts School Building Authority to submit school construction blueprints to the local police and fire departments so they can be familiar with buildings in cases of emergency
■ Requiring at least two hours of suicide awareness and prevention training every three years for all licensed school personnel
■ Requiring annual review of school medical emergency response plans by local police and fire officials, and requiring schools to practice and evaluate such plans each school year
■ Increasing the penalty for carrying a firearm on school grounds
Mariano said lawmakers felt that emotionally unstable students could be identified. “We’ve got to start looking for warning signs with some of these kids,” he said.
He also said, “We wanted to create more of relationship with the police departments and the schools.”
The bill also directed the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a safe and supportive schools framework that districts could tailor to their own needs and implement. And it established a related commission to collaborate with DESE on improving and refining the framework, Mariano’s office said.
“If, and this is a big if . . . if the superintendents are following the strategies that we laid out in the bill, they’re a step ahead of other places in the nation,” Mariano said.
The bill mostly drew attention because of its tightening of gun regulations.
A report on the implementation of the law that was issued in October by experts from Northeastern University and UMass Boston found that the law “is in large part being implemented as originally envisioned by the Speaker of the House, Robert A. DeLeo, and other legislative leaders.”
Jacqueline Reis, a spokeswoman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission is making “efforts to help make schools safe and supportive for all students.”
The academics’ report found that most communities had a “strong and positive relationship between the local law enforcement and the school district,” but it said in “a few cases” the relationship was not strong.
The report noted that many local officials agreed that school safety plans were important, but it noted that some were concerned about the anxiety created by emergency drills.
The report said a large number of local law enforcement and schools had adopted ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training as part of their school safety plans. It said a handful of schools have adopted “a hybrid model” of the Run-Hide-Fight program, which puts more emphasis on incapacitating a shooter. The program has been criticized as promoting students to be “more active in a dangerous situation than many parents might prefer,” the report noted.
The experts recommended that local community leaders, law enforcement, and school officials should also look at the recommendations issued by the Massachusetts Task Force on School Safety and Security, which was formed by former governor Deval Patrick in January 2014 and issued a report in July 2014 before passage of the new law, and “begin to discuss ways to incorporate some of these recommendations that best addresses the concerns and needs of the local community.”
Thomas Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said districts have plans in place. But issues have come up with funding for building improvements “with safety in mind.”
“Schools continue to add safety entries, cameras and other measures, but it’s inconsistent across districts and schools,” he said in an e-mail.