A federal database for designing safer schools is working through the Senate

Clearing House

A federal database for designing safer schools is working through the Senate

Designing for safer schools is becoming a higher priority for Congress. (Christopher Barrett)

A bipartisan bill to improve school safety reached the floor of the U.S. Senate this week. Senators David Perdue (R-GA) and Doug Jones (D-AL) introduced the proposed legislation known as The School Safety Clearinghouse Act on Monday, an aisle-crossing effort that would help state and local officials make schools safer through smarter design.

“Children deserve to go to school and learn in a safe environment,” said Senator Jones in a statement. “School leaders should always have the resources they need in order to protect our children and their teachers.”

The School Safety Clearinghouse Act would establish a federally-funded national database full of information on the best design practices for enhancing security and safety in schools across the country. Managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the clearinghouse would include recommendations from architects, engineers, building security experts, first responders, and mental health advocates. It would not, however, advocate or advertise for specific technologies or tools for schools to use. 

The program is the follow-up to the STOP School Violence Act which gave school districts access to funding for safety-enhancement projects. The School Safety Clearinghouse Act provides information to those districts so stakeholders can make informed design decisions using that money. 

The American Institute of Architects released a statement confirming its commitment to working with Democrats and Republicans, as well as DHS, on the build-out of the clearinghouse—an idea first brought forward by the organization to the federal government when AIA members testified in front of the Federal Commission on School Safety last August. The AIA’s support is the latest move in its growing effort to address school safety and gun violence. In 2018 and 2019 alone there were over a total of 40 school shootings that resulted in injuries or death, according to Education Week

“More than 20 years after the attack on Columbine High School, our schools deserve to be safer. As architects, we know how to help,” said AIA EVP and CEOOffice Robert Ivy in a press release. “Design serves as a critical element in making our airports, stadiums, and office buildings safer following September 11. Senators Purdue and Jones should be commended for introducing new legislation that will give education officials the vetted information they are desperately seeking to create and secure schools for America’s children and teachers.”