Nebraska board approves school safety plan

The Nebraska Board of Education unanimously approved a school safety plan Jan. 7 that calls for independent analysis of safety at Nebraska schools.

Most of the 10 people testifying at the board meeting were opposed to a part of the plan that mandated an external audit of a school’s safety program, said Education Commissioner Doug Christensen. At the meeting, the board recommended “external audit” be changed to “independent analysis.”

“The consensus was this was a move in the right direction,” said John Bonaiuto, executive director of the Nebraska Association of School Boards, who spoke at the meeting.

Bonaiuto and several school administrators opposed to the original plan were worried about the cost of hiring an outside agency to assess their schools. Under the board’s recommendations, community members such as local law enforcement can conduct the analysis for schools, Christensen said.

“We were not sure what was being expected or asked, and felt it was a potentially huge unfunded mandate,” Bonaiuto said of the original plan.

Gov. Mike Johanns filed a letter encouraging the board not to create such an unfunded mandate.

No one was opposed to the idea of a safety team, Christensen said: “Certainly they agreed with the idea that every school ought to have a safety plan. Every school ought to have a safety team, and that the plan should have some kind of an external analysis or evaluation.”

Christensen said most schools have safety plans or are working on them. He said the plan was a precaution, not a response to school problems.

A 32-member committee of school, law enforcement, and public representatives have spent eight months discussing what could be done to make schools safer.

The plan will go to the board’s accreditation committee and should be returned to the board in May for a final vote. If the board approves it, the Attorney General must review it and Johanns must sign it.

eSchool News Staff

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