Safe Schools Act: Blessing or Band-Aid?

By Brenda Erdahl

Government officials are working to improve safety at Minnesota schools, but locally officials wonder if it will be enough.

Last week, Governor Mark Dayton announced his proposed Safe and Secure Schools Act, which would provide $15.9 million in needed revenue to enhance safety for students, teachers, parents, and staff at schools throughout Minnesota. The announcement comes in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting that took place in February. According to media reports, at least 21 threats have been made against Minnesota schools since the Parkland tragedy.

The Governor’s proposal would increase school funding by $18 per student, totaling $15.9 million in 2019, to help school districts and charter schools identify and assist students who exhibit red flags to school officials and law enforcement, to hire more school resource officers, counselors, or other student support staff and make needed safety improvements to school facilities.

Maple Lake schools would see a little more than $16,000, which would not even be enough to hire a full-time school resource officer, Maple Lake Supt. Mark Redemske said.

“It’s a band-aid solution,” he said, but at the same time expressed approval toward lawmakers for addressing the problem and moving in the right direction.

“There is talk and there needs to be,” he said.

At a recent joint meeting between the school board and the Maple Lake City council, Redemske expressed a desire to bring School Resource Officer Jeff Fox on fulltime and ideally, employ a few more officers in the school.

At that meeting he described Fox as “top of the line,” but the district can only afford to have him on school premises three days a week. While the Governor’s proposal wouldn’t fund Fox full time, in years past, the city had shared the cost of the SRO with the school and city representatives expressed an interest in doing that again. They will wait and see how this year’s legislative session plays out, Redemske said.

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