Hoffman creates task force to reduce school violence in Arizona

May 14, 2019, 4:50 AM
(KTAR News Photo/Peter Samore)...
(KTAR News Photo/Peter Samore)
(KTAR News Photo/Peter Samore)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Legislature wouldn’t do it, so the state superintendent of public instruction is creating a task force to reduce school violence.

Kathy Hoffman introduced the School Safety Task Force at the State Capitol on Monday, with a plan not to discuss gun control.

“We have to hone our focus on one thing at a time,” said high school senior Jordan Harb, leader of March for Our Lives Arizona.

“This Legislature is very hard to get through.”

Harb said gun control and police violence could be nonstarters for some lawmakers.

“All of these different aspects of violence in our communities came up, but one thing that was constant through the entire thing was mental health and focusing on support systems, rather than just militarization,” he said.

That’s why Harb believes the Legislature killed HB 2593 this session, which would have produced the same type of task force.

Still, Harb is grateful to join other students, teachers and counselors as they work toward this common goal.

“The stars have been aligning” to get to this point, Hoffman said in her news conference.

“We are seeing a lot of support from the community, as well as from the governor’s office, the Department of Health Services,” she added. “We are all working together on these issues.”

Hoffman has lofty goals for her new School Safety Task Force, but she knows she cannot force any changes.

“That could definitely be a challenge if there are districts that are resistant to these recommendations,” she admitted.

“Sometimes, some of that resistance to change comes from a place of not having the capacity to implement new changes. So we want to do everything we can with our staff to be there supporting them.”

The panel will produce models, templates and playbooks for school safety plans and programs, hoping to reduce violence among students, whether it’s self-inflicted or toward others.

Officials from the Arizona Department of Education plan to produce resources for districts to find students in crisis.

The task force has a year to produce solutions. Hoffman hopes the Legislature will enact them into law.

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Hoffman creates task force to reduce school violence in Arizona