LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt says he supports legislation in Congress filed earlier this month in response to a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that would train students and teachers to identify potential threats before violence breaks.

The bipartisan Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would authorize $50 million in federal grants each year to train teachers, students and police on how to identify and report signs that violence could be imminent.

The STOP School Violence Act would also develop anonymous reporting tools online and through a hotline to report potential threats and authorize $25 million annually for security improvements at schools such as new locks and metal detectors.

A companion measure passed the House on a 407-10 vote Wednesday, which was also a day when students across the country walked out of school in honor of the 17 victims in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14.

Hatch’s bill has earned support from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has signed on as a sponsor.

Pruitt said in a statement Wednesday that educators can no longer simply focus on student achievement and that more can be done to tackle social and economic challenges facing kids. He also said the answer to school safety isn't as simple as installing metal detectors or arming teachers.

“We must equip our teachers with the additional support and training to recognize when a child may need help, and equip our schools with the counselors they need to address the issue,” Pruitt said. “We must ensure that our counselors are allowed to focus the majority of their time on their most important role – ensuring our students receive the level of individual attention and support they need.

“Shoring up school entrances and working closely with our law enforcement partners are important steps in keeping our schools safe, but until we address this core issue – the social and emotional well-being of our children – and give our teachers, school staff and students the tools they are asking for and need, we are destined to repeat school tragedies like we have experienced in our state and around the country.”

In Kentucky, students at schools like duPont Manual High School also recognized two students lost in the Jan. 23 shooting at Marshall County High School as part of their walkouts.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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