New Hampshire Teachers Could Get "Death Benefits" As School Shootings Keep Happening
A recent bill in the Granite State may stun some observers. On Wednesday, the Republican-majority legislature of New Hampshire passed a "death benefit" bill for teachers killed on school grounds. The bill, known as HB 1415, will give a "death benefit for a school employee killed in the line of duty" according to the official text. The proposal has received bipartisan support, and now awaits a signature from New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu.
Under HB 1415, a "death benefit" of $100,000 as a payment will be made to the surviving family member(s) of such a slain teacher. The bill defines "family" as surviving spouse, dependent children, or step-children. When it comes to any children surviving such a teacher, the text for the bill states, "A surviving dependent child shall include a dependent step-child whose expenses of daily living were substantially paid for by the decedent at the time of the death."
Collective Democrat and Republican support for HB 1415 seems to be a result of concern for the frequency with which American school shootings take place in the country. "Active shooter incidents like Sandy Hook Elementary or Columbine thankfully are very rare," Democrat Rep. Kristina Schultz said, according to the New Hampshire chapter of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity's Watchdog website.
"Our educators and school employees are there to protect New Hampshire children in our schools in the event that New Hampshire does have to face such a horrific event like a school shooting or other act of violence," Schultz added. "We need to have the same line of duty benefit for them to show that we honor and respect their service, that they might put themselves in harm's way to save our children."
Recently, CNN revealed the staggering frequency of American school shootings in a stunning infographic. According to the network's report, the United States had 57 times as many school shootings than all developed and industrialized countries combined. The country led France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom with 288 school shootings since Jan. 1, 2009.
The report rattled the father of a young girl killed in a February school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed along with 16 others, tweeted, "If this does not shake you and force you to want to do more to fix this, then you should not be part of this conversation as you are without a soul."
New Hampshire's bill for giving slain teachers a "death benefit" comes shortly after yet another school shooting took place in the United States, this time in Santa Fe, Texas. The school shooting killed 10 people, including a Pakistani exchange student.
While politicians like Schultz supported HB 1415, others frowned upon the idea and shared their criticism. New Hampshire Rep. J.R. Hoell said, "If teachers warrant this, why aren't we looking at prison guards? Prison guards are at a much higher risk of a potential injury than a teacher."
In addition to Hoell, other politicians shared their views of death benefits in professions like firefighting and law enforcement where there is often direct and frequent risk of danger. New Hampshire Rep. Werner Horn said, "The reason we have death benefits for firefighters and police is because the job itself is inherently dangerous. We ask these individuals to place themselves between us and the danger, the increasing the likelihood that they won't collect a pension."
It's too soon to say whether Gov. Sununu will sign in favor of the bill. But it's clear that New Hampshire, like a few other states in America, is trying to come up with its own version of solutions to protect teachers in unpredictable school environments.