By Roxanne Squires
HARTFORD, Conn. — On Feb. 2, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced a new third round of grants approved under the state’s School Security Grant Program to be dispersed to school districts across the state. The grants continue as an effort to enhance school safety and security measures while initial funds spread slim throughout Connecticut schools. The state of Connecticut will receive $10 million to improve security infrastructure at 182 public and private schools in 51 towns and cities across the state.
“Improving school safety is an ongoing effort, one that requires continued commitment and collaboration between all levels of government and our educators,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said in a statement. “These funds will help Connecticut communities keep students and teachers safe, strengthen our schools, and improve response in the event of a crisis.”
Following the Sandy Hook tragedy, the state of Connecticut responded by earmarking millions for funding and implementing school safety laws to be followed by school districts across the state. The Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) administers a School Security Grant Program, established in 2013 as part of a broad legislative package signed into law by the governor focusing on gun violence prevention, mental health and school security issues, according to the government’s website.
When the law was passed, the state set aside $42 million for a security fund, with grants awarded in 2013 and 2014. The grants function by requiring towns to pay a percentage of the total cost of the project, which is determined by the wealth of the community. The law was changed in 2014 to allow private schools access to 10 percent of the grant money. Since adopting this program, the state has made available $53 million to more than 1,200 schools.
With these funds, the schools have begun addressing concerns of how school buildings are accessed, and how to prevent communication failures and coordination breaches between multiple agencies. School districts have also taken preemptive measures by using the funds to add more cameras, install security buzzer systems, laminate all first-story windows and implement key card systems.
One of the laws enacts requirements for schools to put forward a School Security and Safety Plan, a 30-page text developed by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, at the start of the new school year. Another law required that all districts submit records of all fire drills and crisis management drills by July 1, 2017.
Alas, last July, a mere 52 school districts submitted their records; that’s approximately 25 percent of all school districts in Connecticut. Nearly 100 school districts had not submitted their school and security safety plan as of the 2017 deadline, while almost 70 school districts haven’t submitted a plan in at least two years since 2017, according to the Hartford Courant. This has led to state officials contemplating new penalty laws for schools who do not meet the requirements for safety protocols.
Rep. Andrew Fleishmann, chairman of the legislature’s education committee, told the Hartford Courant that introducing a bill next session that penalizes leaders of school districts or the districts themselves would get the attention of everyone who isn’t complying with the law.
Although a work in progress, the state’s new funds will continue to address school safety concerns and strengthen preventative measures in the hopes to eventually restore a peace of mind to students, staff and parents alike.
“Improving school safety is an ongoing effort, one that requires continued commitment and collaboration between all levels of government and our educators,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said in a statement. “These funds will help Connecticut communities keep students and teachers safe, strengthen our schools and improve response in the event of a crisis.”