Ragan Report

A safer Iowa for our young people

The Iowa Senate unanimously approved legislation to increase penalties for child kidnapping in response to the kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard of Dayton last year by Michael Klunder. Our goal is to deter others from perpetrating such horrible crimes against Iowans in the future; it was a solemn time in the chamber, as Senators recalled what happened to Kathlynn, a high school freshman.

We approved a 25-year prison sentence for kidnapping a person under the age of 18. This recommendation came to us from the Public Safety Advisory Board, a group of experts in criminal law, and is supported by the Iowa County Attorneys Association. We also voted to allow the courts to review juvenile convictions of sexual predators and place them indefinitely in detention for treatment upon release from prison if the circumstances warrant.

We will work with the Iowa House to find common ground on this issue and come up with the best possible solution. No child should ever have to endure what Kathlynn experienced, and no family should ever have to live through what the Shepards did last year.

In other legislation to better protect children, Iowa schools will become safer and more secure if Senate File 2136 becomes law. The bill creates a “School Infrastructure Safety and Security Fund” to provide grants to school districts for installing and operating basic security measures.

Fear and confusion can quickly ensue when school buildings do not have basic security equipment that many large private employers have in place. During a school lockdown, for example, teachers often have no immediate way to access official information about the threat.

Under SF 2136, $10 million in state funds would be available to purchase and install entry control devices, door locking hardware, two-way doors and glass, alarm communication systems, glass-break sensors, two-way radios and other equipment that reflect school safety and security best practices. Local schools would match the state investment on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

 

Additional information

This is a legislative column by Senator Amanda Ragan, representing Franklin, Butler and Cerro Gordo counties. For newsletters, photos and further information, go to www.senate.iowa.gov/senator/ragan. To contact Senator Ragan during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise she can be reached at home at 641-424-0874. E-mail her at amanda.ragan@legis.iowa.gov. Senator Ragan is an Assistant Senate Majority Leader, chair of the Human Resources Committee and vice-chair of the Health & Human Services Budget Subcommittee. She also serves on the Appropriations, Natural Resources & Environment, Rules and Administration and Veterans Affairs committees.