ARIZONA NEWS

Here are the changes that could be coming to make Arizona schools safer

Dec 12, 2023, 4:35 AM

Officer joins in on lesson with students in grade school...

Revisions to Arizona state law could be coming after a task force entrusted with making a plan to keep schools safer submitted its proposals on Dec. 7, 2023. (AP File Photo/Brennan Linsley)

(AP File Photo/Brennan Linsley)

PHOENIX — Revisions to Arizona state law could be coming after a task force entrusted with making a plan to keep schools safer submitted its proposals last week.

The proposals – which will be heard at the next legislative session – were drafted by the Department of Education’s Arizona School Safety Task Force, which is made up of educators, legislators, law enforcement, representatives of mental health professions and other community leaders.

“The safety of our schools is of the utmost importance. There is no greater nightmare than to contemplate a maniac shooting up a school and it’s essential that everything is done to increase campus safety,” Arizona Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Horne said in a press release.

“This committee has done remarkable work and now the task is to get these proposed changes implemented so we can make the state’s school safety program even stronger.”

What suggestions did the school safety task force make?

Among the biggest proposals could be a change to state law that would let retired law enforcement officers work as school resource officers (SROs). Currently, barriers prohibit retired officers from doing so.

The task force came to an agreement that if retired officers were able to became SROs, it could be a valuable resource to alleviate the shortage of the positions.

Another suggestion was a change to state law that would let the school safety program pay for school safety officers (SSO) and psychologists. SSOs and SROs conduct the same duties, but the latter is assigned to a school full-time while the former is not.

The task force also suggested the addition of increased mental health training that would spotlight adolescent mental health issues, civil rights matters and education privacy law.

Part of that proposal includes adding a mental health professionals guidance manual that includes a multi-disciplinary safety approach.

Further, the proposal suggested enhanced physical safety, including architecture, securing school entryways, and safety technology and training.

How will the school safety plan be enforced?

The Arizona Department of Education will host annual meetings in an effort to keep good relationships between administrators, mental health professionals and SROs.

The department will also pursue partnerships with entities that can encourage workforce development in the mental health and social work sectors.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Balin Overstolz-McNair contributed to this story.

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Here are the changes that could be coming to make Arizona schools safer