Aug 24, 2022 - News

Iowa rolls out school safety program as students return to class

Illustration of a row of pencils getting shorter with a bullet at the end.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Gov. Kim Reynolds' new school safety program is rolling out as kids return to the classroom.

Details: The $100 million program is funded through the American Rescue Plan and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

  • $7.5 million is dedicated to vulnerability assessments of school buildings conducted by Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
  • The majority of the money — $75 million —  is designated for as-needed “building hardening” improvements.
  • Districts can qualify up to $50K per building to make improvements.

The rest of the fund is meant for a team dedicated to school safety at the Iowa Department of Public Safety that offers training to schools and analyzes threats.

  • It will also go towards radios for school buildings and the creation of an app that's monitored 24/7 for anonymous reports.

Of note: So far, only a few school districts have utilized the program, but that's expected to increase soon now that staff are back to school, said Don Schnitker, chief of the Governor's School Safety Bureau.

Flashback: Reynolds announced the new program in June as a way to help prevent shootings at Iowa's schools. Her announcement came after the Uvalde, Texas elementary school shooting.

The intrigue: Prior to the program, school districts were reliant on themselves for training or their local law enforcement.

Yes, but: The uniform, statewide program from the Iowa Department of Public Safety is now offering school districts a two hour "CRASE" training, aka, Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events.

  • It focuses on how civilians should respond if there's a shooting in a public space, emphasizing that they need to avoid the shooter, deny entry and as a last resort, defend themselves.

By the numbers: Since the program's launch in July, three vulnerability assessments have been conducted, according to the HSMED.

  • 37 school districts have requested assessments, totaling 76 buildings. A contractor has been hired to help perform them more quickly, per HSMED.
  • Around five to six CRASE trainings have been conducted for teachers and school districts so far and eight to 10 districts have requested them, said Schnitker.

What's next: Schnitker said DPS is working on hiring five school safety staff to monitor a new, 24/7 anonymous reporting app that's planned to launch by the end of the school year.

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