Arizona public schools chief says schools must prioritize student, staff safety

Feb 10, 2023, 4:25 AM | Updated: Feb 15, 2023, 9:18 am
(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)...
(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

PHOENIX — Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said schools must prioritize having armed law enforcement officers to protect students and staff.

This comes as the School Safety Program opens for applications. It will provide about $80 million in grants so schools can hire counselors, social workers and school resource officers.

Horne told KTAR News 92.3 FM schools must have an officer or a highly trained security guard on campus if they request grant funding for a counselor or social worker.

“I’m guarding against the ultimate catastrophe by trying to make sure that every school has a school resource officer that can protect the students and protect the staff,” he said.

Grant applications are submitted to the Arizona Department of Education and are “subject to the review and approval of the state board of education,” according to state statute.

KTAR News 92.3 FM reached out to the Arizona State Board of Education to clarify whether grant applications for counselors and social workers will be contingent upon schools having an officer or security guard.

As of this school year, the School Safety Grant Program funds more than 450 positions across Arizona. Of those, 219 are school counselors, 106 are social workers and 140 are SRO’s or juvenile probation officers.

Horne said he supports having a counselor in every school. The latest data shows Arizona having 651 students for every counselor, well above the recommended 250-to-1.

But he disagrees with school leaders who say a counselor or social worker is more effective at meeting students’ needs and preventing tragedies from happening in the first place.

“I think that’s completely irrational,” Horne said. “If a maniac invades your school with a gun determined to kill people, what’s the counselor going to do?”

Schools have until April 15 to apply for the School Safety Grant Program.

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Arizona public schools chief says schools must prioritize student, staff safety