‘Top priority’: Arizona State Board of Education approves more school resource officers

May 23, 2023, 4:25 AM | Updated: May 24, 2023, 2:46 pm

Students at Vista del Sur Accelerated Academy in Laveen collaborate about the text they're reading....

Students at Vista del Sur Accelerated Academy in Laveen collaborate about the text they're reading. (U.S. Department of Education Photo)

(U.S. Department of Education Photo)

PHOENIX – More school resource officers are coming to campuses statewide as the Arizona Department of Education announced Monday that state superintendent Tom Horne’s recommendations have been approved.

The Arizona State Board of Education approved the funding and a total of 301 campuses will be provided with school resource officers, an increase from 190.

Nearly $100 million in funding comes from a combination of federal and state grants. The state portion requires armed officers to be given top priority.  The DOE will provide required training for resource officers, counselors and social workers.

Training will include 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, a press release stated.

“We had almost $100 million of school safety money to distribute, $30 million from three years ago that needs to be renewed,  $50 million from the legislative supplement last year, and another $20 million from the federal government,” Horne said in an interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM. “I made a recommendation to the state board and they approved it.”

Horne said he has been asking for schools to prioritize school resource officers.

“I have urged that schools to prioritize school police officers because if a maniac invades a school and 20 children are killed as has happened in other states it could happen here and the parents find out the school could have had a police officer there to defend the kids and didn’t do it. You could imagine how they’d feel about those decision-makers,” he said in the interview.

All SRO requests were given preference and granted, according to the superintendent. However, Horne said he did respect requests for counselors and social workers. Out of the 292 applications for social workers and counselors, 110 were funded.

“The reason why I wanted to prioritize police officers but the fact that we also respected the wishes of the schools we did grant all school resources officers but we wished the schools asked for more and if they asked for counselors and social workers instead we respected that even though it wasn’t my advice and to the extent the limits of the budget we had we granted those,” Horne said.
The on-campus positions are funded for three years at a time.

“Legislature would have to repass the bill or put something in the budget for it. Right now legislature funded three years worth and that’s what we recommended to the state board be distributed and how and the state board agreed with me,” he said.

According to the press release, the approval came days after a meeting between the superintendent and Phoenix City Council Member Ann O’Brien, the chairperson of the Public Safety & Justice subcommittee.

“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,” O’Brien said in the press release.  “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.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.

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‘Top priority’: Arizona State Board of Education approves more school resource officers