School districts need to be able to use local dollars to improve school security and all schools could benefit from expanding their use of fingerprint background checks of any adults who regularly interact with students, according to one state lawmaker.
State Rep. Joe Dorman said he knows that the Oklahoma Commission on School Security is developing its own legislative recommendations, but that he would like lawmakers to consider his two school safety measures.
House Joint Resolution 1043, if approved by the Legislature and voters, would allow school districts to issue a new type of bond to fund safety upgrades or hire safety officers to improve the security of schools. The bonds would still be subject to approval of 60 percent of voters in the school district, similar to other bond issues approved by school districts.
Dorman said the bill is still a work in progress. He plans to add a cap to the amount of money that can be raised in a bond for security upgrades to protect against frivolous expenditures. Career technology schools have also expressed an interest in having the same bond available, he said.
“Like all legislation, this one will be improved in committee process and the other stages of the legislative process, but the basic idea is to allow schools to use local monies to fund security upgrades. This makes school security a local control issue, so that local taxpayers choose whether or not they want their district to beef up security,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs.
House Bill 2228 would allow schools to use fingerprint background checks of anyone interacting with students in school-sponsored activities, including volunteers. Currently, schools cannot conduct these checks unless specifically authorized by state law, Dorman said. He is working with statewide school groups and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations to allow school districts to have the authority to use the best background check system available.
“I have looked into this and we’ve had several cases last year in which convicted felons infiltrated schools,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “I think with Jerry Sandusky and other names like that on everyone’s mind, along with local issues recently with pedophiles infiltrating our schools, this is a very timely bill. Last year, House lawmakers approved my bill, but we just weren’t able to get it through the process before the last day of session. I have modified this current bill to address concerns addressed by colleagues last year, so I think it is ready to go this year.”