Sen. Westrom supports increase to MN school safety

Sen. Torrey Westrom Supports Increase to Minnesota School Safety

Senator Torrey Westrom and his colleagues in the Minnesota State Senate announced plans to fund additional school safety measures throughout the state’s schools. The proposed legislation would increase existing Safe Schools Safety Funding through the establishment of the Safe Schools Revenue program.

“Everyone’s top priority is keeping our children safe,” said Senator Westrom. “As a father of three school aged children, I understand firsthand the anxiety a parent experiences when they hear of another tragic school event, like what recently happened in Florida. Increasing the ability of school districts to strengthen their buildings, while preserving local control in doing so, is a commonsense solution.”

The Safe Schools Revenue program would preserve the right of local school districts to determine how the funds are spent. Those options could include security enhancements to buildings, hiring school safety officers, or any other safety measures a district deems appropriate. A goal of the program is to allow districts to bring forward innovative, successful ways to secure buildings that fit the size of their district and schools.

The legislation does not address funding to arm school staff, nor additional training for staff members who wish to carry. In the State of Minnesota, superintendents and principals can already grant written permission to allow a permit holder to carry a firearm on school property. Like airplanes that have undercover sky marshals, some schools may already be proactively doing this, unbeknownst to the public. Either way, it is already a local decision for school boards to revisit and decide.

“It is essential that school safety must not be a one-size-fits-all policy,” added Senator Westrom. “Local control must be preserved. That’s why I am personally reaching out to the schools in my district to get their firsthand knowledge of what ideas they have and what works for them.”

In 2017, the legislature passed additional funding for the Minnesota School Safety Center, which conducts 200 training sessions around the state each year and provides recommendations to our schools for school safety assessments, threat assessments that can help identify red flags and behavioral clues, intruder responses, and access controls to better secure our schools. School districts are encouraged to contact them for assistance, and for more information, they can call 651-201-7092.

Additionally, the State of Minnesota currently offers the Safe Schools Levy, which school districts can use to raise funds specifically to improve school safety. The legislature also has announced plans for increased mental health funding through the 2018 bonding bill.

“School safety goes hand-in-hand with mental health,” said Senator Westrom. “We have a shortage of mental health facilities and mental health professionals to assist in our schools.  If we can do more to help identify behavioral clues in our schools and have more safe places for people suffering from a mental health issue to go, more future tragedies could be thwarted.”