Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, joined by Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeff Riley, Acting Commissioner of Early Education and Care Amy Kershaw and public safety officials, announced plans to file legislation proposing significant investments in school safety initiatives to support programming, training and resources for schools and districts throughout the Commonwealth. The administration’s proposed investments will expand its ongoing commitment to deliver a safe and secure learning environment for all Massachusetts students.
“As children return full-time to the classroom this fall, we want parents and educators to know that our administration is always working to improve and build on all the resources available to districts to make their schools as secure as possible,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration has and will continue to provide critical resources for students, staff, families and first responders while making significant investments in training for first responders and school staff so they can protect Massachusetts schools.”
“Children, teachers and staff deserve to feel safe in the classroom, and our administration’s funding proposal will invest in the resources and programming required to equip school communities and emergency personnel with the tools they need to keep schools safe,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to provide critical funding for districts across the Commonwealth.”
Governor Baker signed a supplemental budget with $15 million for school safety initiatives in October 2018.
To date, as part of the Safe and Supportive Schools Initiative, the Baker-Polito Administration has awarded $15 million in grant funding, including $7.5 million awarded to more than 150 districts statewide to invest in security-related infrastructure upgrades and $7.5 million in grant funding to increase mental health support and to support schools’ hiring of additional mental health and behavioral health specialists. Additionally, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) and the Department of Early and Secondary Education (DESE) actively and frequently collaborate on training and best practices for emergency and active shooter responses in school settings. District superintendents are required each year to attest to that they have a multi-hazard evacuation plan in place, as well as that there is training provided to support that plan.
Public safety officials today also highlighted the Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, an internationally recognized standard adopted by the Commonwealth as part of its ongoing commitment to emergency preparedness and community resilience to promote a statewide model for an integrated active shooter and hostile event response. Through cross-discipline collaboration among first responders and emergency personnel, ASHER is designed to protect communities and help them prepare, respond and recover from crisis events. The ASHER framework has already been implemented in state-run police and fire training academies, and parallel training is being finalized for current state police and fire personnel.
The Baker-Polito Administration will file a supplemental budget request in the coming weeks totaling nearly $40 million to support critical school safety initiatives and equip students, staff and emergency responders with the training necessary to respond to better respond to threats within schools.
The proposal will include:
• Matching grants for security and communications upgrades in K-12 schools and public higher education institutes
• Grant funding for child care providers to support safety measures and multi-hazard emergency planning
• Grant funding to support districts pilot an anonymous “tip line” to report potential threats
• Funding for a statewide “Say Something” public awareness campaign and corresponding training
• Support for ongoing emergency response training for school officials
• Creation of a comprehensive school safety website
“These safety proposals would support a huge range of children and students, from those in child care to those at public colleges and universities,” said Education Secretary James Peyser. “The key to these proposals is collaboration among different state agencies and different local entities. When we invest in strengthening partnerships between school districts and first responders, we help ensure that schools are safe environments focused on learning and growing.”
“These proposed supports would be a welcome addition to school districts’ safety planning and infrastructure,” Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley said. “The matching funds for equipment upgrades, plus funding for additional school staff to meet and collaborate with first responders are critical pieces that will help ensure our schools are places where students are safe, healthy, and ready to learn.”
“Nearly 200,000 children are spending time in our early education and care programs across the Commonwealth each day,” said Department of Early Education and Care Acting Commissioner Amy Kershaw. “These resources would provide our programs with the critical resources needed to not only upgrade and modernize their safety and security systems but also to plan, prepare and practice for various emergency scenarios based on the unique needs of our young learners and the early educators who work with them.”
“The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security remains deeply committed to working with our federal, state, and local partners to ensure that schools provide a safe and healthy learning environment for our children and educators,” said Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy. “We continue to build on vital initiatives, including school resource officer training, security infrastructure investments and the implementation of standardized policies to advance our shared goal of achieving the highest safety standards in school districts across the Commonwealth.”
“As the school year approaches, the Administration‘s action supports our students and teachers across the Commonwealth to have the resources they need to be and feel safe in the classroom,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. “Today’s proposed investment in the well-being of our children is crucial to the Commonwealth’s commitment to protect students, teachers, staff and our future.”
“As students and staff head back to school across the Commonwealth, we are proud to announce new measures that will proactively invest in student safety and the security of education facilities across all levels,” said Secretary of Administration and Finance Michael J. Heffernan. “We look forward to filing for funding to support these important initiatives in the coming weeks.”