Lawmakers vote to change school safety bill

Members of the House Education Committee on Wednesday called for changes to a school safety bill designed to give sheriffs and school districts power to set local policies.

Committee members voted to send the bill to general orders for amendments after several groups testified against Senate Bill 1133.

The bill had already cleared the Senate 33-1 on March 14 after it was amended a week earlier.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Idaho State Department of Education Director of Student Engagement Matt McCarter backed the bill. McCarter is helping facilitate a state safe schools task force that is studying the same issues.

“There are some (districts) struggling to even know where to begin ,” McCarter said. “This gives us a great starting point.”

But representatives from the Idaho Press Club, Idaho Freedom Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union opposed the bill. Opponents cited a clause in the bill that would make local districts’ security plans exempt from public records requests. They argued specific details should be private to preserve safety, but parents and taxpayers should have a right to know, for example, if districts chose to arm teachers or bus drivers.

“Who is to say whether the security plan is sufficient or not?” said Wayne Hoffman, the freedom foundation’s executive director. “No one will be able to really know… except the  people privy to the plan.”

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Some lawmakers also expressed concerns that the bill calls for sheriff’s to help districts craft their plans, but does not specifically involve local police departments in the process.

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Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian

Sponsoring Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, said the bill is essential because there is no statewide plan for responding to threats such as a shooter or chemical contamination. He also said the bill is designed to promote local control.

“The threat in Boise is going to be different from the threat in Potlatch,” Hagedorn said.

The bill next heads to general orders on the House floor for possible amendments. While it is out for amendments, any lawmaker will be able to propose any changes to it for any reason.