In 2018, Maryland passed the Safe to Learn Act, a law that aims to improve school safety. With increased funding and specific goals for improvement, the law offers big changes and exciting opportunities for the year of 2019. Two of the biggest changes occurring in Maryland school systems will be the addition of school resource officers and increased mental health services. The law takes into account both the needed changes and the funds needed to make these changes. Because of its ground-breaking nature, Maryland’s Safe to Learn Act of 2018 may well serve as a model for future school safety laws in other states.
The Safe to Learn Act created the Safe Schools Fund (SSF). It contains new and converted funds dedicated to improving safety in Maryland schools. The SSF absorbed the existing School Safety Enforcement Fund, and thus retains its allotted source of funding. The law allows $10 million dollars for safety operating grants to schools in 2019, as well as $2.5 million for school safety evaluations.
School Resource Officers
In 2019, the Maryland Center for School Safety (MCSS) will collaborate with local school systems to establish training and guidelines for school resource officers (SROs). The new bill defines SROs as members of local law agencies assigned to specific schools. The MCSS will work with the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission to write guidelines tailored for SROs. Now, school systems must submit reports that show their schools either have a dedicated SRO or have adequate law enforcement coverage available to them.
Mental Health Services
In addition to SROs in all Maryland schools, the law requires a mental health services coordinator for every school system. These system staff will unite current mental health resources. They will also ensure that every referred student obtains the needed services. In addition, they will maximize external funding. Lastly, they will develop plans for getting behavioral help to at-risk students. The Safe Schools Fund will fund these new resources.
Text by Annika Bastian