On September 20th, the Delaware Department of Homeland Security released the 2017-2018 annual progress report for the Comprehensive School Safety Program. As part of the Omnibus School Safety Act, Delaware schools are required to hold different types of safety drills. According to this report, every single public school in the state held these drills. Does this mean our schools are safe? Continue reading
Grants. Love ’em or hate ’em, but they exist. This is how I see competitive grants- they are temporary fixes that give short-term funding for long-term issues. What invariably happens is the grant runs out and local school districts or charters wind up flipping the bill or, rarely, the funding becomes a part of state code for all schools. For State Rep. Danny Short and his House Bill #335, he wants to make school safety funding a competitive process.
This Act establishes the Delaware School Safety and Security Fund to allow eligible public schools to compete for grant awards to partially or fully fund projects intended to improve school safety or security. The Department of Education shall administer the competitive grant program. This Act further requires all funding to be awarded by a five-member committee consisting of representatives from the Department of Education, Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Office of Management and Budget, the Governor’s office, and the Delaware Association of School Administrators. Said committee shall meet no later than thirty days after the effective date of this Act to develop rules and regulations necessary to carry out the provisions of this Section. Awards granted under this Section shall be limited to a maximum of $50,000 per school, with priority given to applications addressing a current unresolved safety or security issue, or an issue which would significantly improve the safety and security of the public school relative to the size of the investment.
Rep. Short, in grant applications there will always be winners and losers. I hardly think school safety should depend on who can write the best grant applications. I won’t pretend to know the solutions to school safety but I can pretty much guarantee you this is NOT the answer. School safety and the fear of another Parkland, Columbine, or Sandy Hook are very big concerns. But we need to approach these issues with common sense and not just go with the first thing that comes to mind. We talk about equity in schools all the time here in Delaware. Sometimes grants do help schools with the highest needs, but when it comes to school safety, a dangerous situation can happen at any school at any time.
For the record, I do not think arming teachers is a solution either. They have enough on their plate already. I think the biggest thing we can do is be proactive with students that seem to be missing out on resources they desperately need. With the shooter in Florida, there were obvious red flags and warning signs all over the place. Things could have been done on multiple levels to help this kid. The actions of the School Resource Officers assigned to the school were negligent at best.
We need to approach these issues with caution, not haste. Nobody wants another situation like this to ever happen again. That is what we can all agree on. But the flurry of legislation going back and forth over this issue is happening too fast. Yes, action needs to happen. But let’s do it with common sense. Just my two cents!
If we are to have a chance to reduce and reverse this type of behavior, it is necessary to begin early and to start in the home. Efforts must be made to reach out students and to provide them with positive new directions in elementary school. Several committee members pointed out that “middle school is too late.”
“If joining a gang is the only way to survive, the kids will join gangs,” one committee member said, adding, “A lot of teachers don’t know who gang members are. You, as a teacher, should know how to interact with kids and parents because kids and parents may not have the ability to interact with us.”
The committee discussed the possibility of cell phone bans in schools, but public schools in Delaware have not done so because parents want to be able to reach their children by phone.
These were just a few of the topics discussed in the Special Committee on Public Safety.
School safety. Two words that mean so many things to so many people. To some, it means making sure every single student and staff member is protected from violence. To some it means reporting requirements. Many think of Sandy Hook or Columbine. Others think of a mounting problem that can never be corrected.
Earlier this year, in the wake of two very violent deaths in Wilmington, a group was formed by Senator Robert Marshall. Marshall is the Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee. He formed a group that met twice to discuss school safety issues with various topics introduced. Out of these meetings, Senate Concurrent Resolution #83 formed a Special Committee on School Safety. The final report was given to the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate and Governor Markell yesterday.
The below report has a great deal of information. It is very long but it is worth the read. Take the time to read it. Every single word. Whether you are for or against School Resource Officers or Constables in Delaware schools, it is important to know what is happening out there. It affects every single citizen of this state. Issues in schools can explode outside of schools often, but issues outside of schools are brought into schools all the time.
The one thing I took out of this report is there are no easy answers. Issues around funding and legality are some of the biggest obstacles to making schools safer. Trauma plays a huge role in our high-needs schools. Family issues outside of school are one of the biggest obstacles to safe schools.
There was one recommendation coming out of the final report that I didn’t see discussed anywhere in the meeting minutes.
Provide funding for the Delaware Department of Education to conduct a voluntary, statewide survey among students, parents, and teachers to get their thoughts on improving the learning environment and ways to make our schools safer.
It can’t be a report on education in Delaware without the Delaware Dept. of Education inserting something they want, which usually involves them getting more money. One important thing to take note of in this report is that Delaware Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques were both listed as members of this committee but neither went to any of the meetings on it or bothered to assign a designee to attend in their absence.
The parts about Senate Bill 207, which I also issued severe problems with, were echoed by many in regards to future under-reporting of incidents in schools. I thank God the House added an amendment to the bill that still requires mandatory reporting to the Delaware DOE. But there is one line about Senate Bill 207 in the final report which will give any Delaware citizen severe anxiety.