Campbell announces details of Safer Schools, Safer Communities Plan
‘We need to have an honest discussion about gun violence’
“We have to have an honest discussion about gun violence,” Campbell said. “The only way to effectively change things is to implement comprehensive solutions. We need to talk about ways to keep our school campuses safe, we have to discuss ways to provide services to people with mental illness, and frankly, we need to talk about guns.”
Campbell has been working with law enforcement, mental health care providers and educators to develop a comprehensive legislative package intended to create safer schools and safer communities in Arizona.
“It’s time that we restore funding for the school resource officer program,” Campbell said. “Keeping trained professionals on school campuses is one of the first things we can do to protect Arizona kids. This is a program that works and that is already in place. ”
Andrew F. Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association and a former classroom teacher, said student and school safety must always be a budget and a policy priority for Arizona’s lawmakers. He said the AEA supports legislation that promotes reasonable and comprehensive approaches to school safety, including those designed to identify, diagnose, and intervene in cases where patterns of violence or bullying emerge.
“Ensuring school safety requires better solutions than extremists would offer. Expanding mental health and counseling services reduces the likelihood that troubling behavior would escalate into violence,” Morrill said. “District safety plans may include armed security or law enforcement personnel, but our campuses are no place for guns unless carried by trained law and security officers.”
Detective Rob Katzaroff, on behalf of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association, said that SROs enhance school safety and are the people best equipped to handle crisis situations when and if they occur on a school campus.
“Properly trained SROs not only bring the knowledge and resources of the police department but also understand the school climate on their campuses and can more effectively evaluate and respond to threats against the schools where they are assigned,” Katzaroff said.
Campbell’s plan also includes funding for resources for mental health care services and school counselors. Mindy Willard has been a school counselor at Sunset Ridge Elementary School in Glendale, Arizona since 2004. The American School Counselor Association named her the 2013 National School Counselor of the Year. She said school counselors provide services that can prevent tragedies.
“School counselors help students with academic and personal skills. We provide guidance and support,” Willard said. “We know these kids; we’re in every classroom. And we know the warning signs. When there’s a problem, we can help families find resources to intervene."
She added that in Arizona, there aren’t enough school counselors on campuses.
“Right now because there aren’t enough school counselors in the state, it is difficult to stay on top of everything happening on campuses. The proposal to increase funding for counselors will create jobs in our communities and will immediately impact the safety of our schools.”
Campbell’s proposal would double the number of school counselors in the state.
The Safer Schools, Safer Communities Plan includes legislation that will enhance background checks for gun purchases and will restore the state’s concealed weapons permit requirements.
“Gun law reform is something we have to do in this state,” Campbell said. “I’m a gun owner and I support the Second Amendment but we need common sense reforms.”
Campbell added that making schools and communities safer is not a partisan issue.
“Everyone should be able to come together on this,” Campbell said. “I think that we can all agree that keeping kids safe is a priority.”
A summary of the legislation included in Campbell’s Safer Schools, Safer Communities Plan is below.
The Arizona Safer Schools, Safer Communities Plan
Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 24)
Minority Leader – Arizona House of Representatives
Too often, we hear terrible news reports of shootings in our country’s schools and public places. Some of these tragic events have even happened in our own state, most notably the shooting of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords that killed 6 people in Tucson in January 2011. The numerous school shootings and recent murders of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut have again demonstrated how vulnerable our children can be in a setting where they should always be safe and secure.
The story is almost always the same when one of these horrific events unfolds: a person suffering from mental illness takes deadly, high-powered weapons into a setting that lacks the security to detect or stop the armed gunman before he can carry-out his murderous intentions. It is past time that Arizona provides help to those whose mental illness makes them a threat to themselves or others. We must work to prevent these types of tragedies while aggressively protecting our children and community from the potential deadly consequences.
The Arizona Safer Schools, Safer Communities Plan will:
Make school sites safer ($100 million cost):
1) Triple the funding for the existing School Safety Program that funds on-campus School Resource Officers (SROs). Currently, this program receives about $8 million in funding. Under my proposal, it would receive $25 million annually (a $17 million increase), to allow more SROs to be placed on school sites.
2) Create infrastructure within the Arizona Department of Education’s School Safety and Prevention Unit to coordinate statewide trainings and provide technical assistance to district, charter and private schools for emergency response planning and threat assessment. My plan would allocate $1 million annually for this work.
3) Require each school district and all charter schools to conduct and update regularly a regular comprehensive threat assessment (if they haven’t already done so) and identify what is needed to provide adequate security at each of their school sites.
4) Establish a school safety fund of $20 million that will provide competitive grant money to enhance school security measures and equipment based on the needs identified in the school site threat assessment and emergency response plan and training.
5) Double the number of school counselors to help ensure there are more mental health professionals in the school setting to help identify children who may need services and intervention. The total approximate cost of my proposal is $62 million and this amount will be phased in over 3 years to allow adequate implementation time.
Address the needs of the mentally ill ($161 million cost):
1) Fully fund Non-Title XIX services for the Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI) at the 2009 levels at a cost of $23 million. This will ensure all services previously provided under the Arnold v. Sarn lawsuit settlement will again be made available to all who are eligible. In addition to restoring funding to the SMI population, my proposal will also reform the system to incorporate incentives for providers to produce positive outcomes - such as stability in housing, employment/education, and lower involvement in crime and the criminal justice system - for the clients they serve.
2) Fully expand Medicaid coverage to individuals with an income up to 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL). This will ensure access to mental health services for all individuals in this population through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). The estimated cost for the first year of this coverage is $138 million.
Ensure gun ownership is safe ($0 cost):
1) Close the “gun show” loophole by requiring sales and transfers to take place through a federally licensed firearms dealer to ensure all background checks and other requirements are met. Failure to comply with the requirement to use a licensed firearm dealer for the transaction would be a criminal offense.
2) Require that person-to-person sales, loans and transfers of any firearms defined as "assault weapons" be processed by a licensed dealer to ensure a background check and other requirements that would be imposed if the purchase were made from a dealer are met. Failure to comply with the requirement to use a licensed firearm dealer for the transaction would be a criminal offense. For providing this service to private parties, licensed dealers will be permitted to charge no more than $50 (in addition to any government-imposed background check or other required fees). Weapons passed down to family members as family heirlooms and keepsakes would be exempt from this requirement.
3) Reinstate the training and other requirements that were in place previous to 2010 related to receiving a permit to carry a concealed firearm (CCW permit). Failure to comply with these requirements would be a criminal offense.
4) Limit access to firearms for those individuals who are a risk to themselves or others. Arizona law currently prohibits possession of a firearm by any person who has been found to constitute a danger to him/herself or others pursuant to court order, but the definition of “prohibited possessor” must be extended to include those who have been voluntarily committed and/or assessed as a threat to themselves or others by law enforcement. In addition, persons who have an order of protection issued against them, which has been issued after a full judicial proceeding where both parties were present, would be prohibited possessors under my proposal.
5) Ensure that local governments can adopt ordinances to allow for the disposal of guns they obtain through seizure, forfeiture or abandonment, including through firearm “buy back” programs.