Dayton offers $21M plan to enhance school safety

Published 7:44 am Thursday, March 8, 2018

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton proposed $21 million in new funding for security enhancements and mental health improvements in Minnesota schools on Wednesday, as thousands of high school students converged on the Capitol to call for stronger gun laws in the wake of the deadly Florida school shooting.

Dayton, a Democrat, said the money in his proposal could help pay for improvements such as bulletproof glass and secure entrances as well as hire more counselors or school resource officers. Furnished by the state’s $329 million budget surplus, the $16 million dedicated school security fund would allow school districts to utilize funding to make whatever enhancements they see fit.

“We have over 2,400 school buildings in Minnesota, and probably each situation is unique,” Dayton said. “The tragedies that have happened in Florida and elsewhere are a grim warning to us that we need to do more, we need to be ever more vigilant to protect the safety of our students.”

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School safety has been thrust into the spotlight since the deadly school shooting in Florida that killed 17 students and staff on Feb. 14. And though similar tragedy hasn’t touched Minnesota, anxiety is running high after a slew of recent threats at schools, including a six-hour lockdown at public schools in Orono last month.

“We were prepared and we have best practices in place, but we need more,” Orono schools superintendent Karen Orcutt said. “We need to give more support to schools with safety and security needs.”

Dayton’s proposal also would boost grants to schools for mental health programs. And it would ensure that school districts adequately track expelled students, and share information on those students with other schools across the state. The teenager who shot and killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida had been expelled from Marjorty Stoneman Douglas High School.