The thought of innocent kids, teachers and support staff being shot in the nation’s schools should shake us all to our core. Although I do not agree that guns are the reason people decide to perpetrate these horrible crimes, I do recognize that, as a defender of the right to own firearms, I must be engaged in discussing solutions that make schools safer. As a result, I worked with Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham, to introduce a $20 million school security bond that I hope will end up on the ballot this June.

After the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, on behalf of my organization, I introduced legislation LD 529, titled “Resolve, Directing the Department of Education to Examine School Security.” It was sponsored by Rep. Lance Harvell. In addition, a second bill, LD 905, introduced much later but with almost the exact same title, was introduced by Rep. Sheryl Briggs, a Democrat. After speaking with Rep. Briggs, we agreed to join forces, put the bills together and fight to make Maine’s schools a safer place to learn.

As a result of that legislation, experts from the Georgia non-profit Safe Havens was employed (much was done pro-bono) to evaluate school security in Maine. In January of 2014, the Maine Department of Education released a partial report on the findings of that study. The study revealed serious security problems with public schools across the state and made many security improvement recommendations.

They methodically laid out three priority levels as money became available. Their highest priority to Maine lawmakers was “to create the Maine School Safety Center.” The center would act as a clearing house for leaders of Maine’s public safety community and the Department of Education, school administrators, etc., to recommend proper training, facility upgrades and share information. Unfortunately, that recommendation has not been done. A portion of our proposed bond, $500,000, would establish the MSSC and provide a portion of the funding for individual school district training.

There are about 620 public schools in Maine and another 117 private schools. Since the study’s release, many of these schools have made various security improvements, based on their ability to pay. Wealthier districts are in a more advanced position, while poorer school districts still need help. Many of those “schools in need” are older and were designed to be welcoming community centers, not fortresses. Many new schools, particularly in urban centers, have security built into their design and have full-time security personnel. For that reason, our bond uses the School Renovation Revolving Loan Fund (SRRLF) as the pass-through for schools to apply for money to upgrade their security.

The way the money will be distributed is through an application process that prioritizes individual school security needs within the fund. What makes the process so appealing is that for poorer districts (those most in need), up to 70 percent of their no-interest loans are forgiven.

In 2017, 81 schools applied for SRRL funds to do renovations such as new roofs, new gymnasiums, mold mitigation, etc. Forty schools were successful. Our bond language creates a new dedicated $20 million “Maine School Security Enhancement Fund” that also allows communities to supplement their projects with municipal, private and federal funding. If that is not enough to get the job done, we will seek another bond next year.

We also understand the SRRF fund is currently depleted to just a million dollars. We hope to replenish SRRLF and pass the new $20 million bond. Both should be a priority.

There is one common theme that runs through every decent human being on both sides of the gun debate — we all want to see students, parents and staff safe. We want them learning and teaching, not looking over their shoulders wondering if a school shooting could happen. I ask them to consider joining our effort in making our schools a safe place in all situations that can lead to violence.

Maine students, teachers and support staff deal with potentially dangerous situations every day, including bullying, domestic violence, drugs and custodial interference. Our bond does not attempt to address potential shooter scenarios only; instead, we look to improve school security for all dangerous situations.

It is unfortunate that the world and society have changed to the point where Maine schools are not the same place they once were. I believe we must harden our schools to all the growing threats. It is a sad day, but it is the reality we live in.

David Trahan is the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. He served six terms in the Maine Legislature and is working with Rep. Patrick Corey on a $20 million bond to improve security at Maine schools.

David Trahan


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