Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne Urges Schools to Use Safety Grants to Place Armed Security on Campuses

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) announced Wednesday that the next round of the School Safety Program (SSP) grant applications are open for public and charter schools to take advantage of. He urged schools to use this opportunity to put armed security on campus if they do not have any already.

“Every school should have a law enforcement officer to protect students and staff, and this should be accomplished on an urgent basis,” Horne said. “Delay in implementing this goal could leave schools more vulnerable to a tragic catastrophe. Schools that currently have no armed presence yet submit grants applications that do not request an officer will not receive a recommendation from this Department to the State Board of Education.”

The SSP was created by state law to support the costs of placing safety officials on school campuses. The SSP grant runs in three-year cycles, and the next round of funding will be provided through 2026. Applications are “subject to the review and approval of the state board of education” before the money can be granted.

As of the 2022/23 school year, the SSP funds over 450 positions in schools across the state. Of these positions, 219 are school counselors, 140 are school resource/juvenile probation officers (SRO/JPO), and 104 are social workers. Moreover, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) shared that over 50 schools are on the SRO/JPO waitlist, meaning an officer is the school’s “first-choice position” for the next grant cycle.

Horne said that while he does support putting counselors on school campuses, a recent rise in school threats and weapons being brought onto school grounds shows a need for armed security. He further announced that former Phoenix Police Department Assistant Chief Michael Kurtenbach would serve as the director of School Safety under his administration. Additionally, former Phoenix Police Commander Allen Smith will join Kurtenbach as an assistant.

“The two will work throughout the state providing schools with resources and expertise to implement effective personnel and safety procedures. They will also assist school administrators in building trust with students to foster specific types of communication that help support a safer school environment,” according to the ADE.

According to the 2022 Arizona Youth Survey (AYS) from the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, children in the state are experiencing violence in schools. In 2022, roughly ten percent of surveyed students between 8th and 12th grade were assaulted or threatened with a gun, knife, or another weapon, up slightly from 2020. Moreover, about 20 percent of students witnessed someone else being attacked.

Most recently, an incident occurred in Cottonwood at Mountain View Preparatory School where a 13-year-old boy allegedly threatened classmates by saying they were on a “kill list.” The boy reportedly told police he had no real intention of injuring anyone, but he was still booked into Yavapai County Juvenile Detention for making a domestic terrorist threat and disruption of an education institution.

Under Arizona law, threats to school employees or students are taken very seriously. Anyone that disrupts an educational institute by making threats can be charged with a Class 6 Felony. Any student who violates this law shall be expelled for at least one year.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Tom Horne” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Classroom” by weisanjiang.


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One Thought to “Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne Urges Schools to Use Safety Grants to Place Armed Security on Campuses”

  1. Margaret Paddock

    I love the idea and hope they will look to our Veterans to fill the positions.