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State lawmakers unveil school safety bills

HARRISBURG, Pa. – State lawmakers unveiled a package of more than a dozen bills being called ‘Beyond Safe Schools.’ The bills focus on service...

HARRISBURG, Pa. - State lawmakers unveiled a package of more than a dozen bills being called 'Beyond Safe Schools.' The bills focus on services and programs that go beyond the physical aspect of school safety.

"This really is about making schools a safer place for kids," said Rep. Mike Sturla. "And for improving children's lives."

The bills are about making sure kids in school are cared for and have the resources available to help get them through whatever problems or trauma they may be dealing with.

"The best way to prevent any of these incidents is to treat the kids before they want to bring a gun in and shoot somebody," said Rep. Sturla.

Many of the bills introduced in this package Wednesday have bipartisan support. Republican State Rep. Jason Ortitay has co-sponsored two of the bills. The first, would require schools to report suicide attempts, which is something they currently do not have to do. The second bill, would require students be screened for depression.

"It makes it a lot easier for administrators and community to look at behavior going on in the schools and to catch it before it's problematic," said Rep. Ortitay. "So not only can we catch something before it happens or give them the opportunity but we can also get the kids help if they need it before it becomes too problematic."

Other bills in the package would reverse education cuts made in 2011 & 2012, which cut more than 20,000 education jobs like guidance counselors and librarians. Another bill would study the impact trauma has on a child and the best way to treat it.

"We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to change things for the better," said Rep. Ortitay. "And I'm glad to see members on both sides of the aisle coming together for legislation like this."

A democratic spokesman did not want to put a number on how much these bills would cost, but said some of them would require very little, if any money to begin.