Kansas Adopts School Safety Standards In Response To School Shootings

Dec 11, 2018

The Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday adopted new standards for school safety.

The state Legislature ordered the guidelines in May in response to the school shooting debate.

The Legislature also provided $5 million for schools to align themselves with the standards, but the Kansas State Department of Education said it gave away the money in July using temporary guidelines.

"The reason for the speed was we did not want to be the cause that somebody didn’t do something that might improve the safety of children," said deputy education commissioner Dale Dennis.

About $13 million was requested from schools, according to KSDE, so the limited funding was distributed based on school districts' enrollment numbers.

"There is no more additional money available," Dennis said. "The money that might be used for this purpose for safe and secure schools will be a legislature matter for the coming session."

The nine safety standards include drills, annual training for all school staff and quick ways to pass details during an emergency between the school, first responders and parents.

The most important standard involves crisis plans, according to state school safety specialist Susan McMahan. The breadth of those plans varies widely at across the state.

"I've had crisis plans turned in that are eight pages long," McMahan said, "and I've had a plan turned in that's 74 pages long."

McMahan wants to create a template for schools to use for those plans, but there's no legal requirement for schools to use the news standards. Local school boards have the final say on any plan. For schools looking to utilize the guidelines, the state formed a school safety advisory team earlier this year.

Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a statewide collaboration between KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha.

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