Question of the Month: What policies have Midwestern states implemented to address K-12 school safety?
Most states in the region have statutes addressing school safety or emergency preparedness — some more prescriptive than others. Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, for example, require schools or school districts to have a comprehensive school safety or emergency plan.
Indiana districts must develop an emergency operations plan, establish a safe-school committee and designate at least one staff person to serve as a school safety specialist. Under SB 147, enacted in 2016, the state’s Department of Homeland Security established minimum safety standards and identified best practices for school emergency-response systems. State grants also help schools create and implement safety plans, including training and the purchase of equipment. (School safety also will be one of the topics of a special session in Indiana in May.)
A grant program in Iowa promotes school safety through infrastructure improvements. The district must develop a plan that identifies safety defects and how to address them. If the plan is approved by the state fire marshal or a local building department, the district can apply for grant money from the state.
Nebraska in 2014 created a new position within its Department of Education — state school security director. He or she is responsible for collecting safety plans from school districts, identifying deficiencies in the plans, and establishing security-preparedness tools and training programs.
Several Midwestern states (including Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota) specify in statute the number and type of safety drills that schools must conduct each year. Illinois in 2013 began requiring all schools to hold active shooter drills with local law enforcement once a year.
Another idea for states is to provide an anonymous hotline that students and members of the public can call to report potential incidents of school violence, such as suicides or shootings.
In 2014, Michigan launched “OK2SAY,” which allows students to confidentially report tips on potential threats via phone call, text message, email, a mobile app, or website — all of which are managed by the Michigan State Police. More than 11,800 tips — the majority related to bullying, suicide threats, self-harm, and cyberbullying — have been submitted since the program’s inception.
Kansas has a similar 24-hour hotline that is monitored by the State Department of Education and Kansas Highway Patrol.
Following the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., earlier this year, lawmakers in many U.S. states, including at least three in the Midwest, responded with proposals related to school safety.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called the Legislature into special session earlier this year to consider a measure to provide $100 million in grants for schools to invest in security improvements, training opportunities and school resource officers. AB 843, passed by lawmakers and signed into law in March, also creates an Office of School Safety within the state Department of Justice.
Kansas lawmakers introduced HB 2773, which would establish statewide safety standards for schools and provide funds to districts for training and security upgrades. At the time of publication, this legislation had passed the House and was pending approval in the Senate.
|Stateline Midwest: April 2018||1.45 MB|