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Arizona Legislature Needs to Support Arizona Public Schools’ Safety Programs

January 9, 2013 - The Arizona Education Association (AEA) believes that all students and school employees must learn and work in an environment free of violence.  Accordingly, AEA opposes firearms on school grounds unless carried by certified police or security officers.

While AEA is not calling for requiring a School/Safety Resource Officer (SRO) or law enforcement on every campus, we do support districts and schools who determine that such an option is right for their security plans.  Accordingly, we call on the legislature to appropriate funding to support school and district safety plans, including those that call for such staffed positions.

“These people have as their primary function security,” says AEA President Andrew F. Morrill.  “In most cases, SROs do more than provide security.  They work with at-risk students, teach classes on conflict resolution or other aspects of drug/crime prevention, and work closely with administration on school safety.”

AEA will support reasonable school safety legislation that supports school districts’ security plans and mental health resources in order to provide safe schools for our students, volunteers, and employees.  We will oppose any legislation that proposes to place firearms in the hands of anyone who is not a certified, trained law enforcement or security professional in our schools.  “The answer to reducing violence on our schools cannot be to increase the number of guns on campuses,” says Morrill.

When the Arizona Legislature cut over $1 billion from K-12 schools during the economic recession, many school districts made drastic cuts to staffing, including school counselors and psychologists.  Local law enforcement has in the past provided SROs, but their budgets have been cut also.  So in many cases neither districts nor law enforcement can provide those officers as they once could.

Arizona’s children deserve access to specialized school personnel who are trained to support students’ behavioral, social, and emotional needs.  Educators want and need continued training to help them spot potential mental health needs, bullying, or high-risk behaviors.

“The bottom line is that all children deserve a safe and supportive learning environment,” says Morrill.  “Every policymaker and stakeholder of public education in Arizona—from parents to elected officials—must prioritize both investments in mental health services and sensible school safety policies.”

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