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Conn. panel reaches consensus on school security

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By SUSAN HAIGH | AP

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A legislative subcommittee reviewing school security measures after the Newtown shooting agreed Tuesday to recommend that local school safety and security plans meet basic minimum requirements. For the first time, those plans would be submitted to state officials for review.

The panel also agreed to require school districts to report when they conduct mandatory crisis drills and recommended the state allocate additional funds to help the districts pay for security measures such as reinforced entryways with ballistic glass, security cameras, solid core doors and buzzer systems. The lawmakers, however, left the amount up for debate considering the state is facing a budget crunch.

Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, the subcommittee's co-chairman, noted how lawmakers will not be able to issue recommendations that ensure "nothing terrible can ever happen again" at a Connecticut school. The Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.

"I think that the spirit of this task force and these recommendations specifically is to say, 'Well, those things that we can catch early and that we can do that reduce the likelihood of something happening further downstream are what we want to aim for,'" Fleischmann said.

Members of the school security subcommittee of the General Assembly's Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety agreed on Tuesday to a list of consensus recommendations to legislative leaders. Those ideas will be considered for a final package of reforms, to be voted on by the full legislature, likely next month.

Two other subcommittees reviewing mental health programs and gun laws are still working on recommendations to legislative leaders.

Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, co-chairman of the gun violence subcommittee, said his panel may meet next week to discuss possible consensus proposals. He said Senate and House Democrats and Republicans have been informally discussing potential areas of agreement.

"Some people probably figure that gun owners and gun control advocates are 180 degrees from each other and I think that's not the case," said Miner, who believes there's common ground about more education and gun ownership, and the handling of gun crimes. But he said it's too early to tell if there will be consensus on some of the more hot-button issues, such as limits on ammunition magazine sizes and changes to the state's assault weapons ban.

Members of the school safety committee voiced concern on Tuesday about requiring school districts to spend money on certain personnel and infrastructure in wake of the shooting, saying the districts know best as to what they need and can afford. For example, subcommittee members did not agree to require districts to hire school safety officers, install specific security infrastructure or hire specific staff.

However, the subcommittee members plan to make it clear to districts that professionals are needed to provide intensive, individualized interventions for high-risk students who show signs of violence and to follow up with those students.

Last week, the subcommittee was told that the Sandy Hook shooting was unusual because most school shootings are committed by students.

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