Otter signs school safety law

Schools across the state will be safer for students and families thanks to a new security law, Gov. Butch Otter said Thursday.

Safety Bill Signing Otter
Gov. Butch Otter signs the school safety bill Thursday. Photo by Andrew Reed / Idaho Ed News.

“Everybody in that building can now (leave for school) with a bit more confidence that they will be there for supper (back home at the end of the day),” Otter said, as he signed House Bill 514 into law.

Legislators, police officers, safety consultants and education leaders attended Thursday’s ceremony.

Pushed by Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, the bill creates the new Office of School Safety and Security under the umbrella of the state’s Division of Building Safety.

The office will provide schools security assessments and identify areas of vulnerability.

Horman has been working on the proposal for the past year, but decided to accelerate her efforts following last year’s school shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College.

“I decided if there is something more this state can do we need to be doing it and we need to be doing it now,” Horman said.

Horman worked on her bill with consultants Brian Armes and Guy Bliesner. The founders of the consulting firm Educators Eyes, Armes and Bliesner completed a  series of school safety audits released to the Legislature in 2014. They found that unauthorized adults were able to enter 71 of the 74 schools studied.

The new law expands on those audits by creating the Office of School Safety and Security.

“This office will coordinate all of the diverse entities and put the resource in one location for them,” Bliesner said. “As it is right now, you can spend hours looking for an answer.”

Bliesner, a former teacher, served as the Bonneville Joint School District’s health, safety and security coordinator for eight years. Armes spent 25 years in education, serving formerly as a teacher and principal in Bonneville.

“I think this law will be great for the schools to help establish some standard,” said Nampa Police Capt. Curt Shankel, who has served as a school resource officer. “It’s going to give them resources in the sense of a one-stop shop for small, rural communities.”