Arizona State Superintendent Directs Schools to Prioritize Police Over Counselors
Arizona ranks last in the nation for counselor-to-student ratio with one counselor for every 651 students.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said schools must now prioritize armed officers over school counselors when applying for $80 million in grants.
The controversial decision comes after an increase in school threats across the state, reports ABC 15. In just three weeks, at least five threats of violence were made at Valley public schools, including three incidents where students were arrested for bringing guns on campus,
“The first priority has to be the safety of the students and we don’t want a situation where 20 or 30 students are killed because no one was there to defend them,” he said.
The School Safety Grant Program, first established in 2019, could originally be used to pay for counselors or police. Now, schools will be denied requests to receive funding for counselors if they do not already have an officer or a highly trained security guard on campus.
“Usually, I can understand both sides of an issue,” Horne said. “But I can’t understand how anybody doesn’t understand how important it is that we be sure we don’t have any massacres in Arizona.”
Horne said he supports having a counselor in every school but disagrees with school leaders who say a counselor or social worker is more effective at meeting students’ needs and preventing tragedies.
“I think that’s completely irrational,” he said. “If a maniac invades your school with a gun determined to kill people, what’s the counselor going to do?”
Many districts have used the grant money to pay for counselors or social workers as Arizona ranks second to last in the country with one counselor for every 651 students, according to the American School Counselor Association. The recommended ratio is 250-1. As of this school year, the program funds more than 450 positions across the state, according to KTAR News. Of those, 219 are school counselors, 106 are social workers, and 140 are SROs or juvenile probation officers.
Tolleson Union High School District Board Member Devin Del Palacio told ABC 15 that he believes school districts should be able to choose since there is alternative funding available for police.
“Removing millions and millions of dollars from what I think are great preventative tools is backward,” he said. “For schools that want school resource officers, there are programs and grants available at the federal level that already pay for it.”
Schools have until April 15 to apply for the grant money.
Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century
This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!
I support a police officer or highly trained security guard on every K-12 school in Arizona.
I was recently a reading tutor for the past 9 years in the Kingman Unified School District. At one elementary school, I recently complained at the lack of security at the gym/lunchroom during the noon lunch hour. The facility was less than 25 yards from the public parking lot and the facility immediately accessible on the right upon entering the main entrance to the school. Both the main entrance doors and facility door remain open during the entire lunch period. An intruder merely need to casually walk from the parking lot into the main door and right into dining facility and start shooting. No one monitors the area during that time. At an awards ceremony in the gym with more than 400 students and parents in attendance, all doors remained open with no security presence at all. The school does have a security person, much of the entire day running errands for the office staff and escorting students within the school. I complained to the Principle, but ignored again. The kids are sitting ducks for an intruder daily. I am no longer at the school, since February 10. The police should be notified and conduct a security survey to determine if I am not correct in my judgment or make sure the security problem is corrected. Can I get a reply?
Thank you for your comment and concern for the students/teachers in your community. I just replied to you via email.
I am an educator/school counselor in Kentucky. I also agree with every school having a SRO. I do not agree the position cut should be of a counselor/school social worker. I deal with mental health issues daily in my role. Obviously, some of the issues are more severe than others. If Mr. Horne thinks having a school counselor is irrational, my question to him would be, “Is the SRO, principal, asst. principal, a secretary going to take care of the students that come to school every day with those mental health issues?” The very students that are doing the shooting! Maybe he should read the story of Mollie Hudgens, a school counselor at Sycamore Middle School in Pleasant View, Tennessee, who averted a school shooting by one of her students by talking him down AND getting the gun away from him. How many other school shootings have been averted that we will never know of because of groundwork school counselors have laid prior to a student getting to that point? My stance is in NO WAY against having SRO’s! My stance is find funding from other avenues because today’s school can not function as successfully without both SRO’s and school counselors working hand in hand to support today’s students WITH a supportive administrative staff! The state of Kentucky is going in the right direction! Because of that, I have had the pleasure of working alongside of several SRO’s AND school social workers in the last 11 years! My current school has 3 school counselor, a SRO, a school social worker, a school psychologist, a family and youth services director, a mental health therapist in our building on Monday of every week, and a district-wide support group at our central office. It takes a team working together to serve a community! This same type of team is found in many schools across our state. Are we perfect? No, but at least we have support! Shame on Mr. Horne and other decision makers in Arizona.