Missouri students will have additional protections against school violence when they return to class this year, under a bill signed into law June 29 by Gov. Mel Carnahan.

The legislation, which becomes effective Aug. 28, expands the current ban on weapons in schools to include the entire campus, including playgrounds and activity facilities. Students who violate the law would be suspended for a year.

“School should be one of the safest places for our children,” Carnahan said. “Our students deserve to learn in an atmosphere free from fear.”

Carnahan said the legislation expands school safety provisions included in the 1996 Safe Schools Act, but he said violent attacks at schools in Colorado, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oregon showed the need to go further.

“We have sent the message before, and now we are sending it again—weapons and violence will not be tolerated in Missouri’s schools,” Carnahan said.

Last year, amid the rash of school shootings around the country, Carnahan created a task force to produce recommendations on safety in Missouri schools. The law is the result of the task force’s recommendations.

The law also expands funding for anti-violence programs, and it establishes a four-year competitive grant program to create or expand suicide prevention programs. The grant program will begin July 1, 2001.

Parents or guardians will have to sign sworn statements that an incoming student has not been expelled or suspended from any school for incidents involving weapons, violence, or drugs.

Schools also will be responsible for reporting the rates, durations, and reasons for student expulsions of 10 or more days.

Another provision of the bill creates the felony crime of making a terrorist threat. Bomb threats plagued many districts in Missouri last year.

All Jefferson City public schools were evacuated in September after the school district received a bomb threat related to a legislative debate on abortion.