Keeping Students Safe: A Review of Governors’ School Safety Priorities

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    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently offered new details on the Federal Commission on School Safety. As the commission moves forward with its work, it can take note of some of the school safety policy changes occurring within states. Here we summarize school safety policies and priorities, as outlined in governors’ State of the State addresses this year.

    SCHOOL SAFETY

    New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu called for investing nearly $20 million to make infrastructure and security upgrades to schools and communities. With additional security investments, one high school has already secured the main doors of the building, a preschool program has installed exterior door-card readers and another school has a new surveillance system that allows the main office to monitor the playground and all points of entry.

    In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez reminded state lawmakers that parents expect schools to be safe. She asked the legislature to meet those expectations by investing at least $25 million over the next several years for security improvements at schools.

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo remembered the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School who died in a 2012 shooting on that campus, and recognized that reform initiatives have curbed gun violence and sexual assault on college campuses.

    In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster lamented that crime and violence have found their way into schools, making it difficult for teachers to teach and for students to learn. He wants to enhance a safe learning environment with the presence of certified, trained police officers, and asked the general assembly to work with him to station a trained officer in every school. He proposed investing $5 million in a need-based grant program to place officers in schools.

    STUDENT HEALTH

    School safety is not only a matter of keeping potential threats off school campuses; it also includes attending to the mental and emotional health of youth. Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead emphasized the need to address bullying, homelessness, suicide prevention and drug abuse. He credits a recently launched school safety tip line, Safe2Tell Wyoming, with saving the lives of two students in the first two months of the program. In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert brought together a task force of community leaders to supplement the work of the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition to address suicide, which has become a leading cause of death among the state’s youth.

    CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

    West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice reported that before they reach the age of 18, one in 10 children in the state has suffered from some form sexual abuse. He shared that the departments of education and health and human resources are working to put an end to this.

    While these are difficult conversations, they are imperative to have. We’ve compiled additional information on state policies related to school safety, and you can access that here. For more information on governors’ top education priorities, see our recent report.

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    Policy Researcher at Education Commission of the States | ewhinnery@ecs.org

    As a policy researcher, Erin supports the foundational research services at Education Commission of the States, and has a particular interest in the areas of postsecondary access and success. Before joining the organization, Erin earned her master's degree in higher education administration from the University of Denver and a bachelor's degree in English from Boston College. On the weekends, Erin is an amateur crafter and quilter.

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    Policy Researcher at Education Commission of the States | spompelia@ecs.org

    As a policy researcher, Sarah works on a range of education policy issues from early learning to workforce development. Sarah comes to Education Commission of the States with experience as a middle and elementary school teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy and has two master's degrees in social work and public policy from the University of Denver.

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