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Audit: Wisconsin school safety plans follow best practices

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s school-safety plans adequately cover most safety guidelines and procedures, according to an audit looking at a $100 million grant program.

The Legislature in 2018 set up a grant program for school safety within the state Department of Justice after a gunman with a semiautomatic rifle killed 17 at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Then-Gov. Scott Walker signed the proposal into law days after thousands marched in Madison, Milwaukee and across the country to demand gun control. Walker and Republicans who control the Legislature, in offering the school-safety grants, said gun violence wasn’t the right topic of debate.

The money was used by schools to make a variety of improvements, including installing electronic door locks, cameras for surveillance and monitoring and video-intercom systems.

State law requires schools to submit safety plans to the Wisconsin Department of Justice about what should be done in emergencies. By April 2019, more than 61% of schools had submitted 779 school safety plans, according to the report by the nonpartisan Legislature Audit Bureau. Nearly all of those plans, 85% of the total, contained adequate safety guidelines and procedures for at least six of seven school safety situations such as attacks in school, fires and weather-related emergencies, the audit said.

However, some safety plans have relatively little information about how to handle certain situations, the audit found. The report said only about half of the plans reviewed had guidelines and policies for non-classroom emergencies. The audit also said only about half of the plans had guidelines for parent-student reunification and many of those plans had few details.

The audit reviewed nearly 19% of the grants awarded by the state Department of Justice and found no faults in how the program was administered. The 1,325 grants totaling $94.5 million were awarded to school districts, private schools, independent charter schools and tribal schools throughout Wisconsin.

The $5.5 million remaining will be used by the Justice Department to support safety initiatives, providing grants for mental-health training for adolescents.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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