Today, Governor Kim Reynolds, the Iowa Department of Public Safety and the Department of Education announced the formation of the Iowa Governor’s School Safety Bureau. This Bureau will focus solely on providing the needed resources and expertise to assist Iowa’s 327 school districts and law enforcement partners to keep students, faculty and staff safe. The announcement was made during Gov. Reynolds’ weekly press conference.
“Today’s announcement is about what the State of Iowa is doing to act, not react, on the critical national issue of school safety,” said Governor Reynolds. “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.”
Governor Reynolds was joined by Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens and Iowa Department of Education Facilities Consultant Robert Olsen on Tuesday to announce the Bureau, which has been one of her administration’s top public safety initiatives.
“We are excited to partner with the Governor, the Department of Education, first responders, school districts, teachers, and parents on this important initiative that focuses on preparedness in the three areas of training, reporting, and investigation,“ says Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens.
Iowa K-12 school safety is critical to producing learners, and students can only thrive if they first feel protected. The State of Iowa is taking steps to provide the necessary training and assistance to assist every school, regardless of its size, to provide safe learning environments.
According to Bayens, public safety officials have seen an interest and need from first responders and schools to provide consistent training for rapid response to school intruders, exposure to weapons, bullying, and other threats. The Bureau will include a full-time core set of instructors dedicated to providing school safety training throughout the state upon request for nearly 500,000 students, more than 35,000 faculty and staff members, and countless first responders.
Anonymous Reporting Tool
Early behavior reporting is the cornerstone of a safe school environment. Unfortunately, students frequently fail to report concerning behaviors because they fear being outcast, bullied, or accused of betraying a friend’s trust. However, in more than 80% of school shootings, at least one other person had advance knowledge of what was to occur. In order to encourage reporting, the Bureau proposes to implement a statewide tool that makes sharing these concerns easy, anonymous, and monitored 24/7. It may include a traditional tip line, a web-based application and an intuitive app for smartphones.
Law Enforcement Assistance
Almost every school safety threat contains a digital component. Threats are often communicated through social media, gaming platforms, and messaging apps that require specialized training and technology to access. The addition of special agents who are dedicated cyber experts will allow the Bureau to assist local law enforcement in pursuing the digital leads necessary to stop concerning behaviors in schools.
Iowa has taken a comprehensive approach to keeping students safe. This includes legislation signed by Governor Reynolds in 2018 that requires high-quality emergency operations plans in every school, as well as training to help schools prevent and respond to threats of violence.
“It can’t be overstated that schools are crucial partners in prevention, early detection and response to potential threats,” Olsen said. “They work to grow strong relationships with both state and local law enforcement and other community partners, such as mental health agencies. The Governor’s School Safety Bureau will greatly enhance this work.”