Arizona schools chief says student safety goes beyond armed officers

Nov 14, 2018, 9:22 AM | Updated: 9:27 am

Students released from a lockdown embrace following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Dougla...

Students released from a lockdown embrace following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

(John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

PHOENIX — Kathy Hoffman, Arizona’s newly elected superintendent of public instruction, said she believes keeping students safe goes beyond having armed officers present in schools.

Ensuring school safety, according to Hoffman, has as much to do with students’ mental health as their physical health.

“I think that student resource officers have a place in our schools but it shouldn’t be the solution in every school,” Hoffman, who was elected to the position on Monday, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Wednesday.

“What our students most often need is a well-trained counselor or social worker that can help them through their mental health needs and I don’t think student resource officer is the best trained or best equipped to provide the counseling services,” she added.

“I do think they have a place in our schools but for a more forward-thinking solution to serve a greater portion of our students, we need to have mental health services in our schools.”

After 17 people, mostly students, were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida earlier this year, the former schools chief, Diane Douglas, said she would like to see more resource officers on school grounds and more control of campuses.

“I thank God every day we have not had to face one of those incidents here in Arizona,” Douglas told Arizona’s Morning News in August.

Hoffman beat out Republican Frank Riggs with more than 54,000 votes by the time the Associated Press called the race.

But school safety was not all Hoffman said she would be focused on: She told Mac & Gaydos on Tuesday that she will prioritize addressing the state’s ongoing teacher shortage, overgrowing classroom sizes and burdening teacher workload once she is sworn into office.

“One thing we need to be looking closely at is the teacher shortage. We need to be looking at how can we reduce classroom sizes…and to do that we need to address the teacher shortage,” she said.

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Arizona schools chief says student safety goes beyond armed officers