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Brewster: School Building Security Features Must be Installed or No State Reimbursement

Hundreds of millions of dollars per year are committed to school construction and rehabilitation projects in Pennsylvania; and if Sen. Jim Brewster’s new legislation is approved, there would be no state reimbursement for buildings that are not equipped with state-of-the-art school safety features. 

“Given the tragic school shootings, we have to explore all ways of improving school safety and keeping our children safe,” Brewster said.  “New or refurbished school buildings must be equipped with state-of-the-art safety features to prevent trespass, stop assailants and secure space for children.”

Brewster’s legislation would prohibit state reimbursement for any school building construction or rehabilitation through Pennsylvania’s “PlanCon” process unless baseline safety elements are included in the plans. PlanCon is the acronym for the state’s Planning and Construction Workbook where school districts are reimbursed for approved school construction projects.

Brewster said the installation of safety stops, emergency lights and panic buttons, impenetrable strong glass, secure access points and surveillance cameras should be part of a “school security blanket.” 

“Specific baseline school safety features would be approved through a statewide school safety panel so that experts would have the opportunity to express their ideas about best practices,” Brewster said. 

The western Pennsylvania lawmaker is sponsoring legislation to create an 11-member commission that would be responsible for recommending new policies and procedures to protect students.  He said recommendations related to school building safety is a perfect example of why a statewide commission is necessary. 

“School districts are working exceptionally hard to protect students, but new, sophisticated threats require a fresh approach to school building safety,” Brewster said.   “Taxpayers, students, teachers and administrators should be confident that a school building is protected from external and internal threats.”

Brewster said his proposal is a commonsense idea that can be quickly and easily implemented.  He expects to introduce the measure within the next several weeks. 

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