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In Wake Of Colo. School Shooting, Pa. Lawmakers Advance Bills To Increase School Safety

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - In the wake of ongoing school shootings, last year Governor Wolf and a bi-partisan group of state lawmakers approved $60 million to help school districts upgrade school safety.

But many say it was not enough.

"Many schools used that money improve the physical safety of their buildings, but many more asked for more sustained assistance in relation to trained professionals to help connect the kids to improve learning and address problems before they occur," said PA Rep. Dan Miller, a Mt. Lebanon Democrat.

A group of Democratic legislators in Harrisburg on Wednesday, led by Miller, introduced bills to provide services, including counseling, to identify potential shooters before bad acts occur.

"Quite simply, in today's society, no educational environment is complete without access to appropriate professional support in every grade, in every school, and in every district," said Miller.

One lawmaker said it's important for schools to have resources to help kids who experience trauma in their lives, citing an example of an upset student.

"When they finally dug down to it, that kid had witnessed someone being shot that morning on their walk to school," said PA Rep. Mike Sturla, a Lancaster Democrat.

"Those are the things that we need to address in the schools and not wait until we have a tragedy like we just saw in Colorado yesterday."

The package of bills would increase counselors and social workers for schools, mandate depression screening for students, require reporting of attempted student suicides, train school resources officers, increase anti-bullying programs, and increase the number of school nurses.

"These talented and dedicated people are spread so thin and wear so many different hats that they just can't do everything they'd like to do for our children," noted Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Teachers Association.

Miller noted Republican colleagues already support some of these measures, and he hopes for bi-partisan passage soon.

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