The state of Iowa is forming a new public safety bureau focused on preventing school violence, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday, but the plan depends on lawmakers allocating $2 million to fund it.
“News headlines about school shootings and threats at unsuspecting communities across America are becoming all too common,” Reynolds said. “And although those headlines don’t often involve schools in Iowa, we can’t wait until they do to act.”
The Governor’s School Safety Bureau within the Iowa Department of Public Safety is tasked with training local law enforcement and school officials to detect warning signs of potential school violence.
“The program will seek to foster consistency in training so that teachers, administrators and first responders are all working from the same playbook with a common goal of keeping our kids safe,” said DPS Commissioner Stephan Bayens.
He said his department has not been able to keep up with the growing number of training requests from communities. Reynolds’ budget request would allow DPS to dedicate staff to this purpose.
It would also fund additional cybercrime agents to help local law enforcement investigate threats made online. Bayens said DPS is already helping local agencies find and share information about digital threats.
“It’s the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” Bayens said. “And so this program would allow us just to be a lot more intentional about our efforts.”
Bayens added DPS was involved in investigating three school threat cases in Iowa in the past month.
Finally, the $2 million would also help the state establish a tool to allow students to anonymously report violent threats or concerns about their classmates to authorities. It could include a tip line, an online resource or a mobile app.
Reynolds said in 2018, the state required all schools to develop safety plans to respond to active shooter incidents and required an annual drill. She said that was a “really good start,” and she said this new initiative will build on it by focusing on school violence prevention.
Senate Republicans plan to consider a bill this week that would allow Iowans dropping off people or items at schools to carry firearms in school parking lots and driveways.
Reynolds, a Republican, responded to a question from IPR about whether that conflicts with her message about preventing violence in schools.
“I think…one doesn’t negate the other, but that’s a conversation that we need to have and will have as it works through the legislative process,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds declined to say whether she supports that policy.