BURLINGTON, MA – Monday , Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Education Secretary James Peyser, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, Public Safety and Security Secretary Daniel Bennett, and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley joined several school superintendents, teachers, police chiefs, mental health experts and local legislators to discuss efforts the Commonwealth can take to improve safety in schools.
During the roundtable, the Governor spoke with local officials about the $72 million school safety package he filed last month, which was the result of input from many stakeholders, including several superintendents and mental health experts that participated in today’s discussion. The Administration started working on the safety initiatives immediately after the Parkland, Florida school shooting that killed 17 students and teachers in February. The roundtable was also an opportunity for school officials and local law enforcement to have an open dialogue about school safety, and discuss what they are doing locally to keep students safer.
“These proposals will allow schools to hire additional mental health professionals to increase support for our students, while also making important security upgrades,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We look forward to working with the Legislature to enact this package to make the Commonwealth’s schools safer.”
“Through access to new school safety training resources, we can teach students and teachers to better recognize potential threats,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “By working together, we can all ensure safer places for our kids to grow and learn.”
Governor Baker proposed a wide-ranging $72 million package to make school security upgrades, hire additional mental health professionals and train first responders to better handle threats within schools. The proposal includes $40 million in additional aid to school districts to hire social workers, mental health counselors and psychologists, and $20 million in matching state grants for security and communications upgrades in K-12 schools and public colleges and universities.
“The sad reality is that we have to think about protecting our students and teachers from the threat of gun violence in the classroom. By strengthening student supports, as well as upgrading security measures and training for school personnel, we hope to reduce the possibility that we could experience a tragedy like other communities across the country have suffered,” Education Secretary James Peyser said. “I am very grateful for the expertise and insights of the school superintendents and public safety officials that helped us develop these very important initiatives.”
“Our schools face increasing challenges with changing dynamics in our society. Most importantly, our first priority is to provide for the safety and well-being of our students,” said Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts’ Association of School Superintendents. “School superintendents are most appreciative that the Governor has responded to our concerns that increased mental health and security measures are essential needs in our schools today.”
“Efforts to address school safety must also include strengthening behavioral health services for our youth,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “Governor Baker’s proposal increases behavioral health treatment, coordination and prevention efforts in schools throughout the Commonwealth by providing increased aid to school districts to hire additional social workers, mental health counselors and psychologists.”
“Massachusetts’ strong gun laws mean we have one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the nation, but there is always more that we can do to reduce the chances that students in our schools will fall victim to such a sickening event,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett. “Governor Baker’s proposal would enhance the safety of our students by providing grants to improve security in school buildings, as well as giving educators, health officials, and first responders the training they would need in an active shooter situation.”
“Prioritizing students’ health, wellbeing and safety is essential to ensure we provide our teachers with thriving learning environments and Governor Baker gets that,” said Elementary and Secondary Commissioner Jeff Riley. “The resources he has proposed for schools are carefully targeted to have the most beneficial result for our school communities – teachers, students and their families.”
The package also includes:
Under the legislation, each superintendent would report annually to the Department of Secondary and Elementary confirming whether they have a multi-hazard evacuation plan in place, as required by state law. In addition, they would report on any trainings, exercises, or simulations related to the plan that were conducted in the prior year.