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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia

SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER ASSESSMENT ACT OF 2018

May 15, 2018
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 5242. This legislation under consideration today will improve our understanding about the role of school resource officers. But we must acknowledge that this bill barely scratches the surface of what is actually required to keep our schools safe, and I urge this body to do more. 

   In the wake of February's tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, many have called for a so-called Federal focus on hardening of our schools, which includes increasing Federal dollars to hire more police officers and embracing the most harsh punishments for school discipline, and even allowing school teachers to carry firearms, despite the overwhelming evidence that many of these initiatives do more harm than good. 

   In fact, anyone hoping for a discussion of evidence-based methods for preventing school violence must be profoundly disappointed at our reaction since February. 

   Anyone hoping that the call for harsher school discipline would be sensitive to how it would be applied to students of color and those with disabilities must be disappointed. 

   Anyone hoping this Chamber would find the political will to take a stand with parents, students, and the overwhelming majority of Americans to take action on sensible gun legislation must be disappointed. 

   We have failed to act as one after another of these unthinkable tragedies have become commonplace. 

   In the decades since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, States and districts have rushed to increase school-based law enforcement presence. The Parkland tragedy serves as a painful reminder that this effort has not, despite its best efforts, eliminated mass school shootings. 

   Nearly two decades later, mass shootings in schools still persist, while student behavior has been criminalized, leading to millions of students entering the school-to-prison pipeline. 

   H.R. 5242 would direct the Departments of Justice and Education to conduct voluntary data collection on school districts' hiring of law enforcement officers. And I would remind my colleagues that we have a tool that collects a lot of data, not only on the presence of school officers, but also on how they impact school equity. 

   I urge my colleagues to stand in defense of the Civil Rights Data Collection. That is the Civil Rights Data Collection which collects data on equity in education, data such as access to advanced placement courses, data on suspensions, data on access to pre-K and other questions of access and equity, and would call on the Trump administration to affirm its intent to maintain the integrity of that collection. 

   Mr. Speaker, I also urge my colleagues to stand with students and parents in defense of civil rights under the guise of school safety. The Trump administration has signaled its intent to revoke the Education-Justice discipline guidance that provides districts with the tools to address racial disparities in discipline in a way that would not jeopardize school safety and ensure that school law enforcement officers are trained to serve in a school setting. 

   Without a shred of evidence, Secretary DeVos has blamed mass school shootings on civil rights protections and the guidance that clarifies district-level obligations under Federal civil rights law. 

   I urge my colleagues to join me in calling on President Trump and Secretary DeVos to discontinue their misinformation campaign and maintain the entire so-called rethink discipline package. As districts rush to hire resource officers, this body must commit to maintaining resources that empower districts to do so without negatively impacting equity in education. 

   Mr. Speaker, I also urge this body to increase investments in education. Teachers and students need access to mental health services, counseling, and evidence-based violence prevention programming. Teachers need comprehensive support, including increased salaries. The conversation on school safety that speaks only to hardening of the schools and hiring law enforcement officers will harm far more people than it will protect. 

   Lastly, I urge this body to consider and pass commonsense gun safety legislation. Gun violence in and outside of the school is a public health epidemic that merits bold and bipartisan congressional support. Meanwhile, this bill does provide for the collection of data and the hiring of police officers in our schools. This information can be helpful as we decide how to best allocate resources to address school safety. 

   Mr. Speaker, I therefore support the bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.