Congressman Payne, Jr.’s Floor Remarks Urging Passage of the CLASS Act
WASHINGTON—Today, the House of Representatives is considering under suspension a bill introduced by Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr., H.R. 1593, the Coordinating and Leveraging Activities for School Security Act. Rep. Payne, Jr. delivered the following remarks on the House Floor in support of his bill:
“Mr. Speaker, school shootings are a dreadful atrocity plaguing our nation. Nearly 20 years have passed since the horrendous shootings in Columbine High School where 13 people last their lives. Yet schools and universities continue to be soft targets for deadly attacks. Last year, between the months of January and May 2018, there was the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting that claimed the lives of 17 individuals, but there were also shootings nearly every week at our nation's schools. As history as shown us there is no profile for a school likely to be targeted.
“This tragedy can happen at any school. In 2012, after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, the Department of Homeland Security conducted an internal review of actions that its components were taking to help improve school security. Today I understand that multiple D.H.S. components currently have programs underway to address school security, but the degree to which there is coordination is unclear.
“The Coordinating and Leveraging Activities for School Security, or CLASS, Act will establish a standing council within Homeland Security to coordinate school security activities, plans, and policies. The coordinating council will include all key players in school security at the Department. They include the D.H.S. Undersecretary of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, the Director of Cyber Security and Infrastructure Protection, the FEMA Administrator, the Secret Service Director, and the heads of D.H.S.’s Offices of Academic Engagement and Public Affairs.
“This legislation was not developed in a vacuum. Inspiration for this legislation came directly from experiences of those impacted by school violence and from input of New Jerseyans. Last July, my Subcommittee held a school security field hearing in Newark. At the hearing, the Subcommittee heard from the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey Association of School Resource Officers, and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security about the risk the schools face and how Congress can provide support. At the hearing and subsequently through our outreach and oversight, we came to understand that there needs to be better coordination of school security activities within D.H.S. to bolster coordination and minimize fragmentation. As a leader in developing a school security best practices and policies, it is important for D.H.S. to have a formal school security body so that it can provide an example to those on the state and local level on how to coordinate to protect schools.”
A factsheet on the CLASS Act is available to download below.