RE: The opinion titled "KUSD safety measures aren’t enough" | Kenosha Unified School District

RE: The opinion titled "KUSD safety measures aren’t enough"

On Wednesday, May 23, 2018, the Kenosha News printed an opinion article regarding safety measures in the Kenosha Unified School District. While all individuals have the right to an opinion, we feel it imperative that the community receive the facts in addition to the opinions stated in the article.

The article focuses on the district’s recent 2018 School Safety Initiative grant submission and alleged lack of protecting students and staff, specifically stating that school resource officers are the only solution. What it fails to mention is that the addition of school resource officers to all KUSD schools is not only the preferred safety measure of the district, but also that of our local law enforcement agencies. It also fails to mention that the School Safety Initiative grant explicitly states that funding may not be used for personnel such as school resource officers, security guards or other professionally licensed providers. This was shared at the school board meeting on Tuesday evening, and we encourage our community members to view the entire discussion.

The article shares that schools in Florida are making hiring security personnel a priority, but it does not share that this is a requirement under the newly passed Marjory Stomenan Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which takes effect on July 1, 2018, and entails a state mandate that all schools place an armed officer or guardian on every campus when school is in session. This mandate is being funded by the state for the first year, making the requirement possible for schools in Florida. This is not the case in Wisconsin. The safety funds available to schools in Wisconsin cannot be used for security personnel.

While it may sound like Florida is ahead, the article did not share that implementing security personnel will cost ~$3.72 million annually, which is supported by state funds the first year, but will then become the referenced district’s responsibility for subsequent years. This is one district. The price tag to have school resource officers in every school would not be much different here in Kenosha, but this is not supported by the grant funds available to us.

So the question becomes, where do these funds come from? In a state where school funding has been reduced, schools are already doing more with less, and salaries are the most expensive line item in the budget, spending upwards of an additional $3 million annually on salaries is not a reality or something that could be done overnight. Do we cut programs? Staff? Increase taxes? We are not a business where revenues increase with sales. The funds we receive are from our neighbors in the community – taxpayers. Without additional funds (e.g. taxes), and a lot of them, this is not a feasible option. If we found funds, we don’t know if our local law enforcement agencies could support the increase as they are in the same boat of covering more ground with fewer officers due to similar budget constraints.

The bottom line is that there is no easy solution.

The district has submitted a comprehensive grant application outlining additional safety measures that were reviewed with local law enforcement agencies and are intended to better protect our students and staff. We already have safety measures in place that are miles ahead of others in the state, such as ALiCE active shooter response training, school resource officers and security support professionals at the high school level, off-duty officers at the middle school level, locked doors at all buildings, keycard access for district staff only, high-tech camera systems connected directly to local law enforcement agencies, remote access to cameras from various locations in the district, and an internal phone alert system that allows remote access in order to communicate in the event of an emergency situation. In addition, the district will be rolling out a new anonymous text reporting system in the fall to allow students and others to report suspicious activity or concerns regarding school safety.

Things are being done to provide the safest schools we can within our abilities and budget. The support of our community, families and local paper would be greatly appreciated as we work together to protect the cherished children of our community. It has been shared, schools cannot do it alone, which is the truth.

Items outlined in the district’s School Safety Initiative grant application include:

  • Protective film on main entrances and classroom entrance glass of all KUSD buildings
  • Staff training for Trauma Informed Care and Non-violent Crisis Intervention
  • Additional staff training for performing school safety assessments
  • Replacement of video intercom systems at main entrances of every school
  • Implementation of visitor screening systems at every district building
  • Addition of a visual component through the use of flashing blue lights to the Informacast Alert system already in place
  • Installation of a gunshot detection system throughout the district to be integrated with the Informacast Alert system