The Baker-Polito administration announced plans in late August for significant investments in school safety initiatives to support programming, training and resources for schools and districts throughout the Commonwealth.

Gov. Charlie Baker said his fiscal 2022 supplemental budget bill would include nearly $40 million to support school safety initiatives and equip students, staff and emergency responders with the training necessary to better respond to threats within schools.

The proposal includes:
• Matching grants for security and communications upgrades in K-12 schools and public higher education institutions
• Grant funding for child care providers to support safety measures and multi-hazard emergency planning
• Grant funding to support districts piloting 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

At a press event at the State House on Aug. 25, the governor was joined by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley, Acting Commissioner of Early Education and Care Amy Kershaw, and public safety officials. State officials noted that the administration’s proposals are intended to enhance collaboration among different state agencies and local entities, and invest in strengthening partnerships between school districts and first responders to help ensure that schools are safe environments for learning.

“These proposed supports would be a welcome addition to school districts’ safety planning and infrastructure,” 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.”

Kershaw said early education and care programs across the Commonwealth serve nearly 200,000 children each day, and the new resources would help programs upgrade and modernize their safety and security systems, as well as plan, prepare and practice for various emergency scenarios.

Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy said his office is building on “vital initiatives, including school resource officer training, security infrastructure investments, and the implementation of standardized policies” to achieve high safety standards in school districts.

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and the Department of Early and Secondary Education 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 that they have a multi-hazard evacuation plan in place and that there is training provided to support that plan.

Public safety officials highlighted the Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) program, an internationally recognized standard adopted by the Commonwealth as a statewide model. 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 been implemented in state-run police and fire training academies, and parallel training is being finalized for current state police and fire personnel.

In October 2018, Gov. Baker signed a supplemental budget with $15 million for school safety. Through its Safe and Supportive Schools Initiative, the administration has awarded $7.5 million 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 in hiring additional mental health and behavioral health specialists.

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