In Missouri, funding for school safety programs has been on a roller coaster in recent years.

In 2020, as part of a response to the growing economic havoc in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Mike Parson slashed $450 million from the budget, including $300,000 for a school safety program.

The money was eventually restored, but the reduction put Missouri dead last in terms of spending on school safety, which aims to prepare schools for active shooters, sexual predators and other threats to children.

In 2021, the state funded the program at $300,000.

And in the state’s upcoming budget, lawmakers have added to the pot, putting $1 million toward the Missouri Center for Education Safety, which is operated by the Missouri School Boards’ Association — a $700,000 increase.

“We’re hopeful it gets signed by the governor,” MSBA Executive Director Melissa Randol said Wednesday.

The added money will help the center expand its training for school safety in school districts and will put an added focus on counseling programs that could help prevent shootings from occurring in the first place.

“It’s a move in the right direction,” Randol said, citing the deadly shooting Tuesday at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. “This tragedy reminds us again we have to make this a priority.”

There also is language in the budget for the Department of Public Safety to launch a program giving police the ability to be alerted if an armed intruder is in a school building.

In 2019, Parson released a blueprint for improving safety in Missouri schools that was the work of a special task force convened by the governor in the wake of the 2018 mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The task force called for every school to have an armed law enforcement officer. The panel also recommended the state offer a set of standards for conducting drills and exercises.

“Often drills are conducted without a clear understanding by all parties involved of what is being tested or evaluated, and little to no documentation of the results to help correct deficiencies,” the report said.

Hotline, drills

The state asks that any “threat to life” at school or on a school bus — including physical assault, planned school attacks and human trafficking — be reported to the Courage2ReportMO hotline.

The hotline accepts confidential tips for public and private schools.

Its phone number is 1-866-748-7047. Reports can also be made online.

Mike O’Connell, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said that between Aug. 1 and Tuesday, the hotline had received 743 reports.

“Because it’s a 24/7 answering point, reports are addressed immediately and can be sent to law enforcement, school personnel, etc.,” O’Connell said.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of students, school personnel and families making a report when they see or hear concerning behavior, and Courage 2 Report … does just that,” said Mallory McGowin, spokeswoman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

O’Connell added “upon request, a Patrol trooper will conduct random walk-throughs at any school,” he said, adding that in 2019, the patrol conducted 2,509 walk-throughs.

“Missouri State Highway Patrol provides active shooter training for any organization, including schools, upon request,” he said.

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