State Sets Aside Funds for School Safety

moneyMASHPEE – A new state grant program will provide funds to try and make Massachusetts schools safer.

School districts across the Commonwealth can apply for the funds.

Overall, there are $200,000 dollars available from the Executive Office of Education. Governor Patrick announced the program at an appearance in Mashpee on Thursday.

He also released the report of the state’s Task Force on School Safety and Security, which has been designed as a resource for school leaders and community members to enhance safety and security in preparation for the upcoming school year.

The Governor released the report after making remarks at the 20th annual Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents Summer Executive Institute.

“We know that for our students to achieve at the highest level it is imperative that they feel safe at school each and every day,” said Governor Patrick. “The steps we are taking today will help school districts build or enhance safety plans that work for them. We are fortunate to live in a state where everyone recognizes the value in working together on this issue.”

The report includes 29 recommendations presented by the Task Force that will strengthen school safety and security if adopted.

The Governor also announced the establishment of a state-level technical assistance team that will offer strategies for school districts to use to improve school safety and security.

The technical assistance team will be charged with helping school districts, at their request, create and/or enhance their school safety plans, and will be appointed later this summer by the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services and Public Safety.

This team of volunteers will consist of professionals from the education, mental health and law enforcement communities among others.

The Governor also announced on Thursday a state-funded grant program will allow school districts to apply for funds that can be used to enhance school safety and security.

Fiscal Year 2015 budget, signed by the Governor last week, dedicates $200,000 for this purpose. The Executive Office of Education will administer the grants, and will distribute a Request for Proposals in August.

The creation of a new webpage dedicated to School Safety and Security on the Executive Office of Education website was also announced by Governor Patrick.

The webpage will be a “one-stop shop” for school districts looking for resources and information related to school safety and security.

In January, through Executive Order No. 548, Governor Patrick established a cross-Secretariat Task Force on School Safety and Security.

The Task Force was charged with developing school safety and security guidelines that school districts could adapt and implement to ensure that students and educators are safe in the event of an emergency situation.

Members of the task force appointed by the Governor included, among others, representatives of the education, mental health and law enforcement communities.

The Task Force has met regularly since January across the Commonwealth, hearing from a wide variety of experts on best practices and guidelines related to school safety and security.

The Task Force was co-chaired by the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services and Public Safety.

“Having served as a superintendent I know that this type of resource will go a long way in helping school leaders make their communities safer and more welcoming for students,” said Secretary of Education Matthew Malone. “Our schools are the center of our communities and to make them as safe as possible requires a collaborative effort among state, city and town leaders, and educators.”

“We know that no school safety plan is complete without a meaningful strategy to deal with the behavioral health needs of students,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz. “Part of getting children ready to learn is about helping them feel emotionally secure, and this initiative will help schools and educators do just that.”

“Education provides the opportunity to achieve and Governor Patrick remains committed to ensuring children in the Commonwealth learn in a safe, peaceful environment,” said Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral. “The Task Force on School Safety has addressed youth violence, identified gaps in service needs and made recommendations to accomplish this Administration’s objective.”

The Patrick Administration has made historic investments in K-12 education and increased investment in early education so that Massachusetts students are more prepared for success in the classroom than ever before.

The announcement continues the Administration’s efforts to support school districts and students across the Commonwealth by providing the tools schools need to create safe and secure learning environments.

“A safe and secure learning environment is critical to ensuring that all students can thrive academically,” said Representative Alice Peisch, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “The Task Force’s recommendations include concrete steps that schools can take to ensure they are well positioned to prevent, prepare and respond to emergencies.”
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