MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin schools were given the chance to upgrade the safety and security of their buildings a little more than four years ago, but in the wake of the Texas school shooting, some wonder if it is enough.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction says school districts do everything they can to prevent the horror of what happened in Texas.
“We are, and we should, continue to take important steps as schools and districts, to make sure that we have visitor protocol, and that we have locked doors and that we have intruder drill protocols,and that we practice them,” said Abigail Swetz, director of communications for Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Following the Parkland, Florida school shooting in 2018, Wisconsin gave out $100 million in grant money to improve school security.
Former Attorney General Brad Schimel, who is now a judge, handed out those grants to almost every single school district in Wisconsin.
“If they got the grant dollars to harden their buildings to do physical upgrades, they had to agree to send 10% of their staff to adverse childhood experiences training. That gave those teachers the ability to recognize kids that were having problems,” said Judge Schimel.
In 2018, the Kenosha Unified School District became the first to use the grant money. They provided mental health training, blue flashing lights and gunshot detectors in every building. But those grants were a one time funding source. Judge Schimel says he does not know if more security measures are now needed.
“I think that the schools should be asked. That was what we asked back in 2017 and we got their answer about what they needed. We should ask again, are there more upgrades needed to the physical facilities,” Judge Schimel.
However, some schools have asked voters for safety and security upgrades. During the Spring Election this year, there were 81 school referendums on the ballot. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards found 10 of those mentioned safety or security improvements, along with facility improvements. Of those 10, four did not pass. This includes Raymond, Waterford Union, West Allis-West Milwaukee and Cumberland school districts.
Swetz says those schools are not the only ones facing questions about funding school safety.
“We know that they are having trouble figuring out, ‘How do we do our budgets knowing that we did not get the increase we requested in the biennial budget last time’ and does that mean that there are going to be cuts to programs that need to be there for mental health services, for school safety, for staffing like student services to help with ongoing processing of trauma. It does mean those things,” said Swetz.
We reached out to Raymond, Waterford Union, West Allis-West Milwaukee and Cumberland school districts, but have not heard back. DPI encourages families with safety concerns to talk to their district leaders.