DES MOINES, IOWA — Back in June, the governor and other state agencies announced a $100 million dollar investment for school safety.
The largest chunk of that money, $75 million, is being distributed by giving every school building in the state $50,000. The Iowa Department of Homeland Security is in charge of giving out the money and conducting the vulnerability assessments, which are starting soon.
$10 million is being used for different pieces of technology that is designed to help law enforcement respond to active shooter events and also try to prevent them in the first place. That includes emergency radios that are available for free for every school building.
“So the idea that school safety radios have that direct line of communication between law enforcement and schools if an emergency situation would arise, you know, these radios are encrypted,” said Don Schnitker, the Chief of the Governor’s School Safety Bureau. “They are secure lines of communication with law enforcement, their immediate and they are user friendly.”
Schnitker said that the bureau has already ordered 350 radios for school buildings and they are expecting more. School districts only have until October 21 to order the radios for their individual buildings.
The School Safety Bureau is also developing a reporting application with the idea of stopping potential active shooter situations before they occur.
“We are developing a reporting tool that allows students, parents and teachers to report concerning behavior before maybe an incident would happen,” said Schnitker. “It’s not just limited to active shooter or threat of violence against the school. You can report incidents of self harm or suicidal thoughts by a classmate, you can report domestic violence issues going on in the home or bullying.”
The bureau said the app would be anonymous reporting, and there is not a punishment for someone who reports inaccurate information. They would rather have the tips than not. Schnitker said that they are in the process of hiring five communication specialist so that there is always an actual person there to respond to the report to get the most accurate information.
$1.5 million is the estimated cost to develop the app. Schnitker said they are about to purchase the software and they expect it to be rolled out this school year.
The last thing that the School Safety Bureau is rolling out this year is a training program that is optional for schools and law enforcement entities. Some of the law enforcement training involves using an actual school building to create a real life scenario for officers.