State schools chief Tom Horne’s recommendations have been approved by the Arizona State Board of Education providing for School Resource Officers (SRO) to be funded at 301 campuses statewide, an increase from the current number of 190.
The nearly $100 million funding comes from a combination of federal and state grants, with the state portion requiring that funding for armed officers be given top priority.
Horne said, “I have been asking the schools to prioritize school resource officers. The nightmare is that a maniac gets into a school, kills 20 children, and the parents find out that the school could have had a school resource officer to defend the students, but the school did not do so. Imagine how the parents would feel about those decision makers?”
In deference to requests from schools, Horne recommended, and the Board approved, just over $45 million to pay for 566 counselors and social workers.
As part of the grant process for resources officers, counselors and social workers, the Department of Education will provide required annual training that includes instruction on school violence prevention strategies, child and adolescent development and mental health, the roles of counselors and social workers, violence and substance abuse prevention strategies, how to build relationships with students, coordination with mental health providers as well as instruction on documentation and legal issues.
The approval comes just days after a meeting between Horne and Phoenix City Councilmember Ann O’Brien, the chairperson of the Public Safety & Justice subcommittee.
Horne and O’Brien are in agreement that campus safety is a top priority that must be shared by local and state authorities throughout Arizona. Among their shared priorities is to have law enforcement provide data showing the incidents of criminal or disruptive activity on school campuses so that schools, parents and the community at large are better prepared to address this problem.
“Councilmember O’Brien and I share the same commitment to safety, and I am very pleased that she is engaged in efforts to ensure cities and other local entities do all they can to bring more resources to this critical issue,” said Horne.
O’Brien said, “School campuses need to be safe, period. As an elected Phoenix council member and chairperson of the Public Safety & Justice subcommittee, I want to make sure that the public is well-informed about the dangers and potential dangers on school campuses. While I am requesting information from the Phoenix Police Department about data that will better inform the public and policymakers about incidents on school campuses, I urge my colleagues statewide to ask the same from their law enforcement agencies. Our children, their parents and educators deserve no less.”