Investing in Safer Schools

Grace Vanderhei, Chief Editor

Why does it seem like the only thing regarding academic news the past few years has been about school safety? Countless headlines involving protests of gun or any other weapon controls, much like the walk-out Oshkosh North held last spring, plague the media. However, safety in schools is not limited to gun violence. Parents and students across the nation urge school districts to invest funding into mental health reform and other forms of physical safety precautions. American schools scramble to scrape up additional funding for their districts and work to find the one solution for safe schools.

Earlier this year, following the Parkland Shooting, President Trump initiated the idea of providing teachers with weapons to combat armed intruders. He recommended that 20% of educators who are skillful with firearms be armed, who could then end an attack quickly. This prompted a debate about whether or not giving weapons to teachers would be appropriate. Amongst the debate, the social media campaign among school faculty began, trending the hashtag #ArmMeWith. Many of the responses did not push firearms or other weapons but rather factors such as smaller class sizes, mental health education, and gun laws and other actions that keep school members safe. This social media trend was just one of many examples that brought the concept of school safety to the national horizon and motivated educators to find a solution to unsafe conditions.

More recently, the Wisconsin Department of Justice budgeted nearly $100 million as a part of the State School Safety Grant Program. The Program was divided into two rounds; the second round occurred in June.  Between the two rounds, the program provided funding to 89 districts across the state of Wisconsin to improve the safety of school facilities and additional mental health training for faculty members.

In June, Oshkosh Area School District received $459,776, which was put towards extra security procedures, as a result of round one of the grant. At the Oshkosh North campus, the money from the grant allowed the district to install new, high-tech security cameras and improve other preexisting safety features. Through the second round of the grant, our district acquired close to $550,000 in October, which will be used to enhance mental health services in schools.

Dr. Andrew Jones, the Oshkosh Area School District Executive Director of Administration said, “We are grateful once again for the support of the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the ability to provide our staff with critical training and professional development related to school safety and mental health awareness”.

So, why is all this funding important for making our school safer?

One example of why is the lockdown early this month.

Multiple factors played a part in the safety of the students and staff in the building. Besides following ALICE procedures, with which each staff member had to be trained for, administrative staff utilized advanced technology such as the new security cameras to ensure that there was no immediate threat to the safety of each individual in the building. After the lockdown, the school provided counselors for anyone who needed them.

Other examples of the district investing in safer schools include the mental health screenings available for all students, organizations like S.O.S and staff who have been trained to recognize signs of depression or mental illness, and various areas of specific focus like digital citizenship week aimed to keep students safe online.

It is important that the nation and local government continue to dedicate funds and resources to improving school safety. According to Dr. Jones, “The [Oshkosh Area School] District is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of students and staff, and we are eager to continue to enhance and expand our safety initiatives.”

If our school district, as well as others, keep investing in an educational environment in which every person feels secure, and the local and national governments understand the urgency of school safety, then there is hope for a future that all students will feel protected at school.