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Lawmakers in Iowa have approved a bill that would allow teachers and staff in the rural district of Perry to receive bonuses if they don’t quit their jobs following a deadly school shooting. The shooting, which occurred on January 4th at the high school in Perry, resulted in the death of sixth grader Ahmir Jolliff and fatal injuries to the high school principal, Dan Marburger. The bill permits the school district to spend $700,000 of local tax dollars on bonuses for employees during the upcoming school year.

The shooting itself began in the school cafeteria as students were having breakfast before classes resumed after winter break. The shooter, a 17-year-old student named Dylan Butler, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot. Rep. Carter Nordman, a Republican, explained that representatives from Perry and Iowa’s school board association approached lawmakers about the challenge of staff retention that many schools face after such tragedies. While no amount of money can change what happened, allowing the district to address staff retention locally was seen as a proactive measure.

The bonuses, if distributed, will be decided by the district of Perry. The bill states that any district employee is eligible for the bonuses, not just those who work at the high school or middle school where the shooting occurred. Nordman emphasized that this was a way for Perry to show support for its teachers and staff and encourage them to continue teaching in the community. In addition to the bonuses, the bill also waives state requirements on the length of Perry’s school term, acknowledging the need for flexibility in the wake of the tragedy.

Following the shooting, the Perry school district canceled classes at the affected middle and high schools, as well as the nearby elementary school, for several weeks. This period allowed the community to mourn the loss of life and for the district to address safety concerns. Nordman highlighted the importance of providing support to teachers and staff in the aftermath of such a traumatic event, and the bill is one way for the community to express that support. While the bill cannot erase what occurred, it is hoped that it will help with staff retention and rebuilding a sense of normalcy in the district.

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