Commentary by Governor Matt Blunt
(Photo by Vince Rosati)
Keeping Students Safe at School
Recent events in schools across our nation and in Missouri have captured our attention and emphasized the importance of school safety. As a parent and governor, I can speak for all of us when I say that the quality education we want for our students is surpassed only by the expectation that our children be safe while they are at school.
The vast majority of our schools have not witnessed extraordinary violence, but we cannot take the lack of violence for granted. Safe and secure schools are a consequence of deliberate, proactive planning involving school boards and school personnel in partnership with state and local law enforcement, public health, and other first-responders.
In September, my Homeland Security Advisory Council established a Safe School Working Group to ensure our state has a seamless approach to school safety. The group is evaluating an all-hazards planning tool for schools to address health safety issues and is examining the possibility of using Homeland Security grant money to expand the use of this tool to include preparation for a terrorist attack or a hostage situation.
This month I convened a school safety Internet broadcast called Enhancing School Safety: A Dialog on Targeted School Violence that brought together our schools, law enforcement personnel, first responders, parents and community members to discuss school safety issues. You can view the broadcast through the Education Solutions Global Network at www.esgn.tv. To build on the success of the Internet broadcast I am encouraging Missouri’s schools to implement the following recommendations:
- Create a comprehensive school safety plan and review that plan on a regular basis.
- Include all levels of public safety personnel as well as all sectors of school personnel (instructional, administrative and functional staff) in the planning process.
- Continue to communicate with stakeholders on providing safe schools, including parents, students, staff, administration and public safety personnel.
- Provide training on school safety procedures.
This week I also signed an executive order to add a school representative to regional homeland security teams around the state so that our elementary and secondary schools are actively engaged in homeland security planning and can voice what some of their needs are to best protect students. I will also direct state departments to review their current school safety programs to ensure state funding is used effectively to address current safety risks. This will help determine if there is federal funding and state funding that could be reallocated to programs that would better serve our schools’ safety needs.
We all have a role to play in ensuring that our children are safe while at school. Missouri's focus will remain on making education our state's highest public policy priority. This can only be accomplished if schools offer a nurturing, safe environment for teachers to teach and for our children to learn.
Editor's note: According to Jeannie Rhoades, Coordinator, Distance Learning Programs Education Solutions Global Network,Columbia, MO, "Enhancing School Safety: A Dialog on Targeted School Violence" October 19th live broadcast is now available as an On-Demand program and is free to Missouri viewers until November 1st. After November 1st, the program will be available for a nominal fee. All you need to do is go to the ESGN website, click on Programming -- then double click on the category of "School Safety and Security."