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Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, talks with Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, during this year's legislative session. Perkins voted in favor of rolling back specific protections in the Legislature's anti-discrimination policy, and Bouchard testified in favor of rolling back the protections. 

Following the recent uptick in school shootings across the country, local and state lawmakers have all agreed that school safety should be considered a priority. Few would argue that keeping students safe from the seemingly widespread threat of active shooters is of utmost importance.

But actions speak louder than words, and aside from bills giving schools the freedom to arm staff, lawmakers have done far more talking about this issue than legislating.

Sen. Affie Ellis, however, gave fellow lawmakers a proposal this month that would see tangible steps toward improving school safety across the state.

The proposed legislation would mandate that school districts create a comprehensive safety plan and provide training to staff for how to handle an active shooting incident, such as the ALICE training in Casper that Ellis said largely inspired the bill.

Senator Ellis’ efforts to move forward this kind of legislation are laudable. And we’d like to see more support from other lawmakers for bills like it.

Many critics have argued that the bill, while a promising effort, is not “ready for prime time.” That may be the case – the current version might need to be revised or replaced. But consider the reality Wyoming schools are facing:

  • In September, Rozet Elementary was locked down after a man drunkenly waved a gun at a nearby bar.
  • In November, a 14-year-old brought two handguns into a Gillette middle school and allegedly threatened to shoot a student and staff members. He is charged with nine counts of attempted murder.
  • And just this past week, a Rawlins elementary student brought a gun to school, “out of curiosity,” the district said, to show his friends.

The threat of violence in our schools is real. If this measure to protect students and teachers is not ready, lawmakers need to get it ready. If funding is a concern, they need to find the money. If the bill was introduced too late, then lawmakers and staffers will just need to work a little harder.

How long do legislators want to wait to enact potentially life-saving legislation? How many more threats in Wyoming schools do they anticipate won’t result in tragedy?

Saying that they’ll make school safety a priority is one thing. Taking action is another.

When it comes to school safety, there’s no time to waste. Lawmakers need to get this bill – or an alternative – ready for the upcoming session so that schools across the state can start taking these measurable steps to improve the safety of their students.

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