MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont lawmakers are turning their attention to school safety measures following the approval of a package of gun ownership restrictions that were passed in the aftermath of what officials called a near-miss school shooting in Fair Haven earlier this year.

WCAX-TV reports the Senate Judiciary Committee is reviewing a proposal to allow retired police officers to work as armed school resource officers.

Democratic Chairman Sen. Dick Sears says the plan could especially benefit rural schools where police are often far away.

“I think it’s vital that we take every step that we can to protect our students,” Sears said.

However Amy Fowler, deputy secretary of the state Agency of Education, said national studies have found schools with resource officers suspend and expel minority and low-income students at higher rates. She said she thinks school resource officers need more police training.

“Adolescent development might be something that would be useful to them, conflict mediation, some training in restorative practices,” Fowler said.

The House has approved $5 million in funding as part of the capital budget to help improve school security. The measure requires Senate approval.

Sears predicted the bill will proceed, but he’s not sure what changes will be made to the proposal.

Prosecutors are also requesting that lawmakers upgrade making a school threat from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The school safety proposals come in the aftermath of the Legislature’s passage of a package of gun restrictions that include raising the legal age for gun purchases, expanding background checks for private gun sales and banning high-capacity magazines and rapid-fire devices known as bump stocks.

The Legislature was prompted to act after a teenager was charged with planning a shooting at the Fair Haven Union High School.


Information from: WCAX-TV, http://www.wcax.com