Sunday, April 8, 2018

Idaho wants feedback on school safety initiative that would add security officers to schools

Posted By on Sun, Apr 8, 2018 at 4:02 PM

click to enlarge State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra - IDAHO EDUCATION NEWS PHOTO
  • Idaho Education News Photo
  • State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra

Idaho State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra wants feedback on a school safety initiative that would fund more school resource officers and pay for the state to develop a teacher safety course and statewide crisis counselor.

"We know what we want to do — help schools and districts keep their students safe through education, trained security presence and statewide resources to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies," she says in a news release. "But it's essential to get feedback from schools, students and families to make sure their concerns and needs are represented."

It's called the Keep Idaho Students Safe (KISS) initiative, and it would be a $20.8 million request to state lawmakers.

It would include $18.7 million to help schools hire and train security personnel, expand their school resource officer program or pay for other security measures. Fortunately, that's an idea Inlander readers can reach an informed perspective on if they read our cover story this week with 47 good, bad and ugly ideas to reduce gun violence.

The Idaho KISS initiative says it would help schools hire and train either school resource officers, retired military or law enforcement or private security. Many rural Idaho school districts do not have any such security personnel.

But research isn't clear about whether adding funding for schools to hire and train more security personnel like school resource officers would be a good thing, and it might depend on what the goal is. If the idea is to prevent more shootings, then it's possible more security personnel could help — though research isn't clear on the effectiveness. Law enforcement officers in schools, however, can create other problems, studies have shown. It may disproportionately increase student arrests for nonviolent offenses among students of color, for example. Some advocacy groups are actually pushing for fewer officers in schools.

The initiative would also include $2 million for a 45-credit safety course required for teacher certification focusing on protecting students displaying risky behaviors. The safety course that is part of the KISS initiative would be required for new teachers and for recertification of existing teachers and administrators. It would include training on detecting mental health issues and behavioral threats, bullying and harassment prevention and suicide prevention. 

Lastly, it asks for $116,584 for a statewide "crisis communications counselor" that would help districts prevent and prepare for a crisis and respond to emergencies. That person would be based at the State Department of Education and would be a point of contact for school counselors to address student social and emotional issues, among other duties.

You can read more about the ideas here and take the survey here.

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