Solutions to keep schools safe for students and educators range from security enhancements to mental health safeguards.
WEAC is partnering with the Department of Public Instruction to support solutions aimed at keeping Wisconsin’s public schools safe and welcoming. The measures, forwarded to the Legislature late today, address school facilities, mental health, climate and culture and policies.
“Educators know firsthand what it takes to keep schools safe and welcoming, yet we’re rarely consulted,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, an eighth grade teacher with expertise in restorative justice. “WEAC is signing onto the recommendations, and our members in every part of the state are counting on elected officials to listen to us and support them as well.”
Here are the basics of what we are supporting to keep students and staff safe:
- Restore the revenue limit adjustment for school safety expenditures equal to $100 times the number of pupils enrolled in the district or $40,000, whichever is greater. District could use funds to purchase school safety equipment, fund the compensation costs of security officers or fund other expenditures consistent with its school safety plan. The Legislature had recently eliminated this program.
- Establish a Wisconsin School Safety Center to help prepare for emergencies. More than 20 states already have state centers to provide training, tools and technical assistance. The center was proposed in 2015, but the Legislature refused to embrace the measure.
- Expand categorical aid funding for school mental health staff to include school counselors, psychologists, nurses and resources officers. Currently, only social workers are eligible.
- Increase community and school collaborative mental health grants to support community mental health services in schools.
- Expand statewide training for school staff and community partners around mental health screening and interventions in Youth Mental Health First Aid, Trauma Sensitive Schools and Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment.
Climate and Culture
- Create a new categorical aid to implement prevention programs that address school climate and violence, similar to Pennsylvania’s Safe Schools Targeted Grants. Grants would fund prevention activities, including conflict resolution or dispute management programs, including restorative justice, character education, PBIS and more. Educators sought this aid in 2015, but the Legislature did not act on the recommendation.
Policies and Procedures
- Require safety/security plan reviews every three years, in which schools conduct a comprehensive endorsed safety/security site assessment. This includes a safety planning team, an emergency operation plan and more.
- Keep sensitive school safety information confidential by allowing school boards and districts to address school safety plans in closed session and exempt the plans from the open records law to protect sensitive safety and emergency planning information from potential threats.