The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) announced Monday that the State Board of Education has approved grant funding for 301 statewide schools to finance a school resource officer (SRO) on campus. This shows a significant increase in schools seeking armed security, as 190 campuses utilized the grant for officers during the previous cycle.
Additionally, it is not only more SROs coming to campuses, as Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) (pictured above) also got payments approved for 566 counselors and social workers around the state in over $45 million in grants. In total, the school safety program offered nearly $100 million in funding from state and federal monies. The grants will go into effect in the fall of 2023 and last until the 2025/26 school year.
The SROs and social workers will be required to undergo training provided by the ADE. This training will cover school violence prevention, adolescent mental health, signs of substance abuse, and building relationships with students.
“I have been asking the schools to prioritize school resource officers,” said Horne (pictured above). “The nightmare is that a maniac gets into a school, kills 20 children, and the parents find out that the school could have had a school resource officer to defend the students, but the school did not do so. Imagine how the parents would feel about those decision makers?”
Horne is not done trying to make schools safer. He announced that he is collaborating with Phoenix City Council Member Ann O’Brien, who chairs the Public Safety & Justice subcommittee. Part of their goal is to have law enforcement offices across the state provide data on criminal incidents on school campuses to make this information more available to parents and community members.
“School campuses need to be safe, period,” O’Brien said. “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.”
In response, Horne thanked O’Brien for her efforts.
As reported by The Arizona Sun Times, not only has Horne pushed for more schools to bring SROs onto campuses, but he specifically targeted schools within the Phoenix Unified High School District (PXU). The district stopped using SROs in 2020 following student protests and nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd. While the PXU has considered returning SROs to campuses, it has yet to reach a final decision.
Horne received SRO grant requests from six PXU campuses, including Cesar Chavez, Maryvale, Metro Tech, North, South Mountain, and Trevor Browne High Schools, and he wanted them granted. A spokesperson for the ADE confirmed to The Sun Times that these six schools had their grants approved in this batch.
As for dangers on Arizona campuses, the most recent incident occurred on Friday at the Bostrom High School in Phoenix. As reported by 12 News, a 15-year-old student was found to have an AR-15 and ammunition in his backpack and lunchbox. However, no one was harmed, as the school went into lockdown, and police and school security officers were able to detain the student and seize the weapon. The student could now face felony charges for illegally carrying a firearm. The case is now in juvenile court, but he could be tried as an adult if necessary.
In response, the ADE applauded the school for quickly acting and alerting law enforcement.
Thank you to students and staff for alerting law enforcement about this threat. Superintendent Horne is committed to getting school resource officers in every school to ensure Arizona's students are safe.https://t.co/BsXUIoTk42
— Arizona Department of Education (@azedschools) May 21, 2023
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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. Photo “Police Officer” by Michael Descharles. Background Photo “Classroom” by Ivan Aleksic.