DOJ grant continues to improve school safety throughout Wisconsin

WISCONSIN (WBAY) -- As students and staff get ready to start another school year Tuesday, statewide school districts have been continually improving safety measures at schools.

(WBAY photo)

In Green Bay, students will even be greeted by local law enforcement officials just to let them know they’ve got their back in case of an emergency.

Wisconsin's Office of School Safety was created alongside the state's $100 million school safety program back in March of 2018, in response to the Parkland school shooting in Florida.

Since Implementation, schools across the state have taken advantage of the Department of Justice’s grant money to improve school safety.

“Some of the things that local teacher and students might see are physical security improvements, like entrance vestibules, a new camera system or visitor check in procedures where visitors are checked against a known database,” said Glenn Rehberg, Office of School Safety with the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Over the last year and a half, the Green Bay Area Public School District put $835,000 worth of grant money toward many upgrades, including security cameras, portable radios, visitor management software, panic buttons and window film.

In the Appleton School District, more than $800,000 went to remodeling school entrances, cameras and shatter-proof window films.

The DOJ’s Office of School Safety also requires ongoing training for staff, like threat assessment courses.

“So that allows staff to say, ‘hey we have concerning behavior, maybe not potentially overt violence, but the student is struggling in these ways and some indicators may be similar to what we saw in parkland.’ So how do we evaluate, whether the student is in crisis and how can we get more step to that student to steer them on a different path and therefore, increase safety at school,” said Rehberg.

Rehberg’s office is also trying to make sure anti-violence drills or active shooter drills aren’t traumatic for students.

“What we are trying to do is take an all hazards approach in the office of school safety, not only do we want to deal with mass violence, but we want to deal with some of the violence that can happen on a common basis that don’t involve mass casualties,” said Rehberg. “We want to help prepare schools for predictable emergencies. For example, one thing we report is incident command training and a way to deal with crisis and reunify students with parents after a crisis happens, that hasn’t been needed in Wisconsin this past school year for violence, but was needed in sun prairie when school had gas leak.”