Posted: March 11, 2015 | Education and Cultural Affairs, Senator Libby

AUGUSTA – Today, the Maine Senate enacted a bill aimed at better preparing Maine school children in times of emergency.

The bill, LD 97, a response to tragedies in schools around the nation, expands the school evacuation drills to include lockdown drills in addition to their current practice of conducting fire drills.

“As difficult as it is to imagine any kind of tragic event happening in our schools, I believe that students, teachers, school staff, parents, and public safety officials would benefit from this sort of preparedness,” said Senator Nate Libby of Lewiston, the bill’s sponsor. “Being prepared can save lives. This is a matter of ‘plan for the worst but hope for the best.’”

Sen. Nate Libby of Lewiston

Sen. Nate Libby of Lewiston

According to the Education Commission of the States in 2013, twenty states required schools to conduct lockdown drills. Since then, several more states have been prompted to consider requiring schools conduct lockdown drills.

During the public hearing on the measure, Senator Libby  acknowledged the challenges to school districts if this bill were to become law, citing school time constraints, possible costs to municipalities, and the anxiety or fear any drills may cause. But he cautioned that these concerns would be less significant compared to the benefits of this practice, and that local school districts and local public safety officials can find the right balance of fire drills and lockdown drills to avoid taking any more classroom time away from instruction.

“As policymakers we must weigh upsides and downsides with each piece of legislation that crosses our desks, no matter how difficult or controversial they may be,” said Senator Libby, adding, “I truly believe this is the right thing to do.”

The state’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee agreed, and passed the bill unanimously.

Additionally,  the bill was supported by the Maine Department of Education, Maine Fire Chiefs Association, Maine School Management Association, Maine Education Association, and Lewiston Public Schools.

The bill, “Resolve, Directing the Department of Education To Amend the School Emergency Drill Rules,” will now go to the Governor for his signature.