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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — School districts in Iowa will have access to more resources designed to help prevent school violence thanks to $100 million in federal pandemic relief funding that Gov. Kim Reynolds is putting into the state’s school safety bureau.
Reynolds announced the move Tuesday during a news conference at the state public safety offices near the Iowa Capitol complex.
The resources will include state personnel, training, and emergency communication systems, all designed to help schools prevent school violence or react to emergency events like school shootings.
The dedication of federal funding to the state school safety bureau comes in the wake of multiple new mass shootings across the U.S. in elementary schools, churches and other public spaces.
“Every family should be able to confidently send their children to school knowing that they will be safe,” Reynolds said during the news conference. “And as the Governor of Iowa and a grandmother of school-aged children, I want to assure parents that your children’s safety at school is just as important to me.”
Reynolds said more than $80 million of the federal funding will go toward conducting vulnerability assessments at school buildings and creating grants for districts to make any recommended physical changes or upgrades.
Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens said the goal of the school safety bureau is prevention. One of the new bureau positions made possible by the federal funding will monitor threats being made through digital sources.
“The goal is to identify concerning behaviors early so parents, school officials, mental health professionals and others can begin providing assistance with and without the need for having formal law enforcement intervention,” Bayens said at the news conference.
The bureau also will make emergency radio systems available to any school that wants one, and will create a program through which individuals can anonymously report to the bureau — via phone, website or mobile app — concerning behavior.
Bayens said the bureau’s resources will be created to supplement any efforts already underway at Iowa school districts, and not duplicate or supplant those efforts.
“I wish we could say this is all unnecessary. But we cannot simply rely on the optimistic thought that it will never happen here in Iowa,” Bayens said. “Rather, reality mandates that we roll up our sleeves and we tackle this issue head on. We owe it to our kids. We owe to our teachers. We owe it to our communities. And we will do everything in our power to put action behind the prayer that it’ll never happen here.”
Reynolds created the school safety bureau in January 2020, but the Republican-majority Iowa Legislature has not funded the bureau in the three legislative sessions since.
Reynolds on Tuesday announced she will use funding from two federal pandemic relief packages: one each passed under former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden.
Reynolds said the school safety bureau was established despite the lack of state funding, and that state government officials from various state agencies have been working to make the bureau as useful as possible.
“ (The lack of state funding) hasn’t stopped us from doing some stuff,” Reynolds said Tuesday. “We didn’t get the funding, so we haven’t stood it up in a manner that it needed to be stood up. But now we will be able to, which I think is a wonderful use of some of the funds that are coming into the state.”
Reynolds said the $100 million infusion of federal funding will sustain the school safety bureau through 2026, and could be funded even longer pending new gun control, school safety and mental health care legislation being considered in Congress.
Reynolds said in the meantime she will work with state legislators to ensure the bureau is funded long-term. She said once the federal funding is exhausted, her office estimates it will cost $1.5 million annually to operate the bureau.
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