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Dept. of Public Safety providing $1.5M for Missouri school safety, security

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(The Center Square) – Missouri’s Department of Public Safety will provide up to $1.5 million to improve safety and security at public and charter schools.

The funding was announced days after Attorney General Andrew Bailey targeted the Hazelwood School District’s diversity, equity and inclusion policies after an after-school and off-campus fight resulted in a student hospitalized with a fractured skull and brain bleeding. A few miles and days after the incident, a 14-year-old middle school student in the Jennings School District was stabbed and murdered away from and after school.

The funding will provide two new school safety planning software programs. One will create physical security assessments and the other will allow schools to create emergency operation plans for individual circumstances.

“Since Governor [Mike] Parson’s Missouri School Safety Task Force issued its report in 2019, DPS and state government have been introducing new programs and additional funding to help boost security in Missouri schools,” Sandy Karsten, director of the Department of Public Safety, said in a statement announcing the funding. “These two programs, which we are providing at no cost to school districts and charter schools, can be used together to assess specific risks and vulnerabilities and then build emergency operations plans to respond to security gaps.”

Up to $1 million will be provided to schools for implementing comprehensive security risk assessments of the interior and exterior of school buildings. The software also will detect potential vulnerabilities and develop a report to assist school administrators in addressing security problems. The software program, designed by a Missouri-based security firm, is available at no charge.

An additional $500,000 will allow schools to create new or strengthen existing plans for emergency operations. Slightly less than half of Missouri’s 518 public school districts have utilized a web-based development tool to create an emergency operations plan. The previous initiative started through the Missouri School Boards’ Association with funding from the Department of Public Safety.

Additional schools can apply through May 31 to gain access to the software program through the Missouri School Boards’ Association. It will provide school districts and charter schools with site-specific, all-hazard response plans.

“The tool offers step-by-step instructions and suggestions, including spelling out specific roles for teachers, administrators and others,” according to a media release from DPS.

The programs allow plans to be stored on a secure site and regularly reviewed or updated.

The new funding builds on another technology initiative DPS provided to schools in 2023. More than 140 school districts and charter schools adopted the Raptor Technologies mobile emergency alert app, which allows districts to create customized alert programs in response to emergencies. It synchronizes with 9-1-1 services to provide information within seconds on locations of emergencies and school campus maps to first responders, law enforcement and school administrators.

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