governor kim reynolds

Iowa Governor Introduces Plan to Establish School Safety Bureau For Training, Threat Reporting

The government is considering the creation of an app that would allow students and parents to anonymously submit tips about concerning behavior or mental health issues.

Following in the footsteps of other governors across the country, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is asking the state legislature to allocate $2 million to create a “Governor’s School Safety Bureau” within the state’s public safety department.

The bureau would involve hiring two staff members to train teachers, administrators and local law enforcement about best practices when responding to incidents, including active shooters, at Iowa schools. Reynolds announced the initiative on Tuesday, stressing the need to improve training resources and reporting of potential threats to law enforcement.

"Today's announcement is about what the state of Iowa is doing to act, not react, on the critical national issue of school safety," Reynolds said in a statement. "We are working to ensure our schools and local law enforcement are prepared to both respond to and deter threats to the safety of students, teachers and staff. Sensible actions today can prevent tragedy tomorrow."

Stephan Bayens, the Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner, said at a press conference on Tuesday that the state is looking into establishing an app and other tools for students and parents to anonymously report concerns about potential threatening behavior or mental health issues. Thirteen other states have already launched an app to collect anonymous tips, according to Bayens.

“We want to look at things such as self-harm or other concerns [like] depression and identify those troubling behaviors or those concerning behaviors early and get them the help they need,” Bayens said on Tuesday, according to Radio Iowa.

He added that Iowa is trying to take more steps to improve school safety before a massive tragedy takes place.

“Unfortunately almost every state that has implemented [an app-based reporting system] has done it on the heels of a tragedy and so one of the things that we really wanted to focus on is to be proactive and not wait for a tragedy to occur,” Bayens said.

In addition to hiring a “full-time core set of instructors” focused on school safety training for state schools, the Bureau would also consider hiring agents who are “dedicated cyber experts” to assist local police in investigating threats made online, according to Reynolds’ announcement.

The state already requires schools to develop emergency operations plans thanks to a 2018 law, but Bayens said the government can still do more.

“We live in a time where we can no longer simply assume that our schools remain kind of the safe havens of our children,” Bayens said. “Unfortunately those times have changed, and we must change with them.”

Photo by John Pemble/Iowa Public Radio Images under Creative Commons License

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