Legislative Update – March 15 – Special session on school safety planned

The governor has introduced his school safety plan and is calling for a special session to consider it. His proposal comes a week after WEAC and the state Department of Public Instruction forwarded our principles for school safety. Those solutions, designed to keep schools safe and welcoming for all students and staff, are reflected in a series of bills now circulating for co-sponsorship.

URGE YOUR LEGISLATORS TO CO-SPONSOR OUR SAFE SCHOOLS SOLUTIONS

The governor’s plan includes a series of grants and other short-term funding primarily aimed at areas such as reporting requirements, crisis planning, equipment and guards. What is missing are the components of the WEAC/DPI solutions, like long-term funding solutions for safety expenditures and funding to address student mental health needs.

Some groups are already sounding the alarm at the governor’s proposal. Wisconsin Family Ties, which advocates for families of special needs children, said, “Safe schools are well-resourced, not hardened.”

“WEAC firmly believes that to keep Wisconsin schools safe, sustainable funding should be aimed at emotional and social health supports for students,” WEAC President Ron Martin said. “Our schools don’t need more guns aimed at them.”

Years of state cuts to public school funding have forced reductions in the number of services for students in crisis, who have fewer counselors, social workers and psychologists available to them. The governor’s proposal does not provide for more positions, nor does it create funding for local schools to do so.

“Educators know firsthand the challenges we face are not one-time problems, and solving school violence depends on state leaders investing in students – not solely fortifying buildings,” Martin continued. “After all, violence is a community issue – not an isolated school issue.”

MORE DETAILS ON THE GOVERNOR’S PROPOSALS:       

LRB-5686School Safety Grant Program

This bill creates a grant program, administered by DOJ, to award grants to school districts, operators of independent charter schools, governing bodies of private schools, and tribal schools. DOJ must work in consultation with DPI to develop a plan for awarding the grants. The plan must include what expenditures are eligible to be funded by a grant. This bill appropriates $100 million GPR for the Office of School Safety grants. The bill says grants used to employ armed school safety officers may be used to employ only law enforcement officers or former law enforcement officers as armed school safety officers and “may not be used to supplant existing resources used for this purpose. A school that receives a grant to employ armed school safety officers shall demonstrate that the moneys are not supplanting existing resources used for this purpose… A school that receives a grant to employ armed school safety officers may receive a grant for 3 consecutive years without submitting a new application each year. In the first year, the grant shall cover 75 percent of the costs associated with employing armed school safety officers; in the 2nd year, the grant shall cover 50 percent of the costs associated with employing armed school safety officers; and in the 3rd year, the grant shall cover 25 percent of the costs associated with employing armed school safety officers.”

LRB-5599Office of School Safety

This bill creates an office of school safety in the Dept. of Justice. The office must work with DPI to create model practices for school safety, must compile blueprints and geographic information system maps for schools for use by law enforcement agencies in an emergency and must offer training to school staff on school safety.

LRB-5687Mandatory Reporting.

This bill requires professionals who must report suspected child abuse and neglect under current law to also report to a law enforcement agency a reasonable suspicion that a person intends to commit an act of violence involving a dangerous weapon or explosive in or targeting a school. This bill also “explicitly exempts from the state’s requirements for confidentiality of patient health information and allows the disclosure by a health care provider of any suspicion of a patient intending to commit an act of violence involving a dangerous weapon or explosive in or targeting a school.”

LRB-5688Model Bullying Policy.

This bill requires that the parent or guardian of each pupil involved in a bullying incident be notified within 48 hours of the incident being reported to a school district employee.

LRB-5684School Safety Plans.

This bill eliminates the three-year window for schools to have a school safety plan, and instead requires all school boards or governing body of private schools to have a school safety plan in effect. Before creating a plan, school boards or governing bodies must work with local law enforcement to conduct an on-site safety assessment of each school building, site, and facility that is regularly occupied by pupils. The bill requires a school safety plan to include an individualized safety plan for each school building and facility, and specify guidelines and procedures to address specific types of school safety incidents, including school violence and attacks, threats of school violence and attacks, parent-student reunification, and threats to non-classroom events. This bill requires each school board and governing body to ensure pupils are drilled annually in the proper response to a school violence event. This bill requires the school board or governing body to approve its school safety plan at least once every three years, and require the school plan to be submitted annually to the Office of School Safety at DOJ.

LRB-5690School Camera Footage.

This bill creates a specific exception to privacy required for pupil records for safety camera footage that is made available to a law enforcement agency if sharing that footage serves a legitimate safety interest.

Additionally, Walker signed EO#279, which directs the State of Wisconsin to help schools in contracting for school safety and security equipment. The EO says Walker directs DOA, State Bureau of Procurement to:

  • Consults with school CESA and public safety officials on school security and safety purchasing needs.
  • Conduct an analysis of State of Wisconsin contracts to determine which provide security and safety supplies, equipment, and services needed by schools.
  • Address gaps in supplies, equipment, and services not currently provided on state contracts by creating new security and safety contracts available to schools.
  • Work with suppliers and service providers to enable schools to conveniently purchase equipment, supplies, and services at favorable prices and terms.
  • Create a school-focused webpage with links to contract resources that may be used by public school districts to purchase security and safety supplies, equipment, and services.
  • Encourage vendors to extend State contract pricing and terms to private schools in Wisconsin.