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Arizona School Safety Discussions Continue as SRO Gaps Have Yet to Be Filled

The Arizona Department of Education’s Safety Task Force was back in session on Oct. 25 brainstorming ways to keep kids safe in school.

The meeting focused on how to provide more armed officers in schools, as well as social workers.

Political and educational leaders from across the state met in Phoenix to provide an update and discuss how to move forward with those objectives. One of their main solutions is hiring retired police officers and military veterans to fill the school resource officer (SRO) gaps.

Using grants, 850 schools were awarded a total of 301 school resource officers. Of those, 138 positions are still not filled.

The meeting blamed that on the already growing police officer shortage. So, now they’re looking elsewhere.

“Anybody who is willing to come in and provide that critical function within our schools that has that skill set,” Michael Kurtenbach said. He’s the director of school safety for the education department who was formerly with the Phoenix Police Department.

The task force wants to expand the definition of what an SRO is, so they can fill the vacancies as quickly as possible. An idea thrown out at the meeting was using private security companies, retired police officers, or military veterans to fill them.

“There are a lot of retirees out there that have value, so it’s finding a way to connect those retirees to a sponsoring agency within legislation that doesn’t exist right now to get them in schools to do something they are passionate about,” Kurtenbach said.

The department is already contracted with Off Duty Management (ODM), a company that schedules off-duty officers to serve as campus “school safety officers” in 11 Arizona counties. This current model will be used in schools without a dedicated SRO.

The Arizona Department of Education will provide training and background checks.

Additional funding was approved earlier this year for 522 social workers and counselors. Off Duty Management can also help fill those vacancies.

“The creative thing that we have been able to do here is to recognize when we have this gap of 138 schools that wanted a school resource officer but can’t fill one, is find off-duty officers to work in those schools and because these holes are in 11 of our 15 counties in the state, ODM with their relationships and the contracts, they already have they are helping us place those officers,” Kurtenbach said.

The group recognized this was just the beginning and that there is a lot more work ahead of them.

For now, more meetings will happen next month.

Source: Yahoo News