Missouri families preparing to send their children back to school later this month may notice several steps the state is taking to increase school security. Legislators approved recommendations from the governor’s office giving school districts access to grant money for physical security upgrades and emergency supplies. The state also funded a new app for school lockdowns for all districts to access.
In May, Gov. Mike Parson announced that funding was available for school districts to sign up for a mobile application to assist in emergencies. The app, Raptor Alert, will allow school staff to silently trigger alarms and communicate with emergency responders. Missouri school districts are being trained on the software, and those who signed up before the end of June should have the technology ready before the school year begins.
“We want all students across Missouri to have the opportunity to learn in safe and secure schools,” Parson said at the time. “That’s why our administration included funding for this school safety app.”
Parson set aside $20 million in school safety grants in his 2023 early supplemental budget request, which legislators approved. Almost 170 districts claimed a portion of the funds, with grants ranging from $7,100 to $450,000. Parson plans to increase the grant fund to $50 million next year, if approved by lawmakers.
Despite media reports, schools remain the safest place for children. The latest figures show that 32 children died in school shootings in 2022. In comparison, 100 children die each year in bicycle accidents, and another 2,000 in unrelated home injuries, including falls and drownings. That includes an average of 140 children who die by choking each year.
In April, a research firm hired by the state school board asked stakeholders about their priorities for the department. “Ensuring schools and classrooms remain the safest places for students and teachers” resonated most with survey participants, which included school staff and parents. Those surveyed listed funding as the top barrier to success.
During this year’s session, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle filed 18 bills related to school safety. Some focused on school resource officers, while others targeted mental health. Although the topic is bipartisan, the parties took different approaches to the legislation, with Democrats filing bills to reduce children’s access to guns and Republicans looking to allow more school personnel to qualify to carry a weapon on campus as a school resource officer.
Just one was signed into law, a bill by Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Scott City, that expands background checks to include adults taking classes in facilities with K-12 students on site. The law exempts adults that are part of a school’s average daily attendance, such high school seniors who are 18.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice