GREENDALE – At a training run by the Office of School Safety as part of its work on assessing threats in schools, Attorney General Josh Kaul sounded a warning that these types of services the office provides are in danger of ending after 2024.
“It’s necessary for the legislature to step up,” Kaul said. “We have a large state surplus and with just a fraction of a percentage of that surplus, we can keep this office going and continue these services.”
The Office of School Safety is part of Kaul’s Department of Justice, and is primarily funded by federal grants. Kaul said they were hoping to receive additional funding in the biennial state budget passed last year but did not.
“We would need to severely cut back and in some cases shut down some of the critical services that office offers,” Kaul said. “There would be a few positions remaining, but the office would basically become a shell of what it is now.”
A major casualty would be what Kaul called a signature program for the office, the 24/7 anonymous tip line, Speak Up Speak Out. The line has received 10,000 tips since it was launched in 2020, information that is then provided to the relevant school district and in some cases local law enforcement.
“We could not operate [Speak Up Speak Out] with the resources that would be available without additional funding,” Kaul said.
There is a bipartisan bill currently proposed by in the Senate which would provide some of that funding. Kaul said it would allow the office to finish out the 2024-25 school year and would get them to the next budget cycle, where they could again ask for funding in the biennial state budget.
The office is holding 11 Behavioral and Threat Assessment Management trainings around Wisconsin starting with Monday’s event in Greendale. Office of School Safety director Trish Kilpin told WTMJ the goal is to teach educators to appropriately respond to any threats to school safety.
“We need to differentiate when a student poses a threat versus makes a threat,” Kilpin said. “There are students who make a threat who may not pose a threat. They may be upset and say something impromptu or impulsively.”
Kilpin said the reverse is also true, and the trainings will help identify warning signs displayed by students who might pose a threat to school safety but not be actively making threats.
It’s programs like this that Kaul wants to see continue beyond 2024.
“I think that these programs have proven themselves extremely valuable to our students,” he said.
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