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.
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