Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) revealed data this week showing support for School Resource Officers (SROs) on school district campuses. He said his office would continue pushing to see this across the state.
“There is overwhelming support among parents living in the Phoenix Union District (PXU), statewide, as well as classroom teachers, to keep children and staff safe by having school resource officers at the schools. They not only provide safety, but teach classes, and become friendly with students, so that students learn to trust them, rather than viewing police as enemies,” Horne said.
The data is clear. Parents, teachers, and students support school resource officers on campus. Superintendent Horne is extending the deadline to apply for the school safety grant and encourages all schools to apply here: https://t.co/63Uy6DQJZP pic.twitter.com/GnNqsdfJLk
— Arizona Department of Education (@azedschools) April 12, 2023
According to Horne, the Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights (OHPI) recently conducted a statewide survey. Notably, it found that 78 percent of respondents considered school safety important, and 81 percent favored seeing SROs on school campuses.
The Arizona Sun Times contacted OHPI for additional information but did not hear back before press time.
Specifically, Horne called on the PXU to reinstate the use of SROs in schools. As reported by KJZZ, the district discontinued its use of officers in 2020. The decision was made in response to student protests, the 2020 riots spurred by the death of George Floyd, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The district reasoned that having officers on campuses was unnecessary because many students turned to virtual learning.
However, Fox 10 reported that the district is now considering reversing this decision. This news was well-received by parents in the districts.
Horne shared that now, more than ever, it is essential to have armed protection on campus to combat the rise in school shootings and threats. The PXU is not exempt from this horrific trend either. ABC 15 reported that on April 8th, police responded to reports that a 19-year-old student Dion Craig of Betty H. Fairfax High School, had a gun in his backpack. An off-duty school security officer investigated, and Craig was arrested and jailed.
“The worst tragedy one can imagine would be if a maniac invaded a school and killed 20 children, as has happened in other states, and that school passed up the opportunity to have a resource officer present to protect the students and staff,” Horne stated.
The Sun Times reported that the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has a school safety grant currently open. The funding runs on a three-year cycle and must be approved by the state board of education. Schools can use the money to hire counselors, social workers, or SROs, but Horne encouraged schools to go the officer route when the grant opened. From the previous grant cycle, 140 schools in the state have an SRO on campus.
The deadline to apply for this grant would have ended April 15th, but Horne announced he is giving a one-week grace period. So, schools will have until the 22nd to make any final decisions.
Furthermore, Horne also reached out to mayors statewide, asking for support in the effort to put SROs in schools.
“School safety is of paramount importance to all of us and my office is eager to work with you to help fund appropriate resources for our schools. My priority is placing more uniformed officers in schools to help ensure a safe learning environment while also developing meaningful relationships with students, parents, and educators alike,” Horne wrote.
Additionally, he asked the mayors to “establish and maintain open lines of communication” with the ADE to collaborate on school safety measures.
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