By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Along with providing additional physical security, the state’s second round of school-safety grants, totaling $45 million, will be used to set up school-safety intervention teams and to try to improve students’ mental health, Attorney General Brad Schimel announced on Tuesday.
That announcement came hours before U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar planned to tour the Adams-Friendship Middle School in west Wisconsin to see how it deals with school safety and behavioral health.
After a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in February, the Wisconsin Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker approved $100 million worth of grants for school safety. Walker’s signing of the bill also came following marches throughout the country in which demonstrators demanded more gun control, which Walker said was the wrong priority.
Instead, the grant program administered by a new Office of School Safety within Schimel’s Department of Justice has largely been centered on installing physical-security measures, such as new locks, surveillance cameras and alarms.
Nearly all of the state’s public schools, and about 40 percent of private schools, are expected to get some of the $56 million being awarded in the first round of the program.
Schimel, a Republican, has been awarding school-safety grants throughout summer. This second round of awards will ensure he continues to hand out money leading up to his bid for re-election in November.
Schimel’s Democratic opponent, the former federal prosecutor Josh Kaul, issued a statement Tuesday saying more needs to be done to make schools safer. He called for the institution of universal background checks for gun purchases and a ban on bump stocks. Kaul also said more money should be spent on mental-health programs in schools.
State Superintendent Tony Evers, one of eight Democrats running for governor, unsuccessfully asked Schimel and the Legislature’s budget-writing committee this month to use the rest of the grant money to expand mental-health services in schools.
Schimel said Tuesday that the second round of awards will build on improvements paid for by previous grants, which have helped train teachers on mental health and set up groups of teachers, counselors and-law enforcement officials who can lead teams that assess threats and identify students who are in need of support.
Some of the money will also be directed toward making additional physical-security improvements.
To qualify for the second round of grant money, schools must send 10 percent of their full-time teachers and counselors to a DOJ-approved adolescent mental-health training session by Aug. 31, 2020. Grant money can be used to pay for expenses related to that.
Schools must also establish teams in every middle and high school to identify and address threats posed by students.
Schools must show interest in applying for the second round of grant money by Aug. 15. Schimel said the remaining $45 million will be awarded starting in October. The value of grants awarded in the second round will range from $10,000 to $2.5 million.