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State superintendent announces 'School Safety Task Force'

Posted at 5:04 PM, May 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-13 21:27:36-04

PHOENIX — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman unveiled what she is calling the 'School Safety Task Force' Monday afternoon at the state capitol.

"In the face of the current inaction (referring to failed House and Senate bills), the school safety task force will bring diverse voices together to find solutions and help school districts with school safety," said Hoffman.

Both House Bill 2597 and Senate Bill 1044 would have brought about changes to K-12 schools that would have created safe environments for the more than 1.2 million students across Arizona.

Hoffman, a Democrat, was supported by state Senator Kathy Brophy-McGee (R-Paradise Valley), who introduced SB 1044, and the group called Youth Against Gun Violence. The primary focus of the task force is to supply districts with a platform and plan when it comes to mental health-related issues with students.

Jordan Harb, one of the members of Youth Against Gun Violence says, “Because often the threat is not outside the school gates but instead in the classroom sitting next to me sometimes a threat is myself."

Arizona ranks at the bottom when it comes to the ratio of students and counselors. National standards recommend a ratio of one counselor for every 250 students. The national average is currently one to 450 students, and Arizona has one counselor for every 905 students--as of the 2018-2019 school year.

Senator Brophy-McGee is in support of the task force; adding that the current legislature is not allowing this type of community action to move forward in schools across Arizona.

“things that can't be seen but cant be felt when you walk in a school's campus," says Brophy-McGee.

The task force plans to come together over the summer months and will include input from students, teachers, counselors, law enforcement and legislators. Although no timeline was given, Hoffman says it will likely take an entire school year of designing and creating the plan. It is likely the task force would have something for districts to implement in the 2020-2021 school year.

"It’s not just talking about it it’s not just Conferencing it’s saying it’s taking action,” said Brophy-McGee.