Law enforcement trains for 'active shooters' inside Troy Buchanan High

Lincoln County Deputy Brian Johnson (left, with gun) and Det. Sgt. Ryan McCarrick participate in an "active shooter" drill at Troy Buchanan High School on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Members of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department and Troy Police officers conducted the training, attended by teachers and staff members from area school districts. The school's drama students played victims. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY • Organizers of a program designed to keep kids safe during an active shooter situation say a budget-cutting move by Gov. Jay Nixon could eliminate much of the training this year.

Paul Fennewald, director of the Center for Education Safety at the Missouri School Boards Association, said Nixon’s June 6 decision to cut funding for the program from $700,000 to $100,000 likely will mean far fewer schools will have access to the training dollars.

Last year, the state awarded more than $400,000 in grants to 49 school districts to support safety-related programs and initiatives.

The cuts were part of an announcement by the governor that he was slashing $115 million in spending this year to account for slower-than-expected revenue growth. If revenues improve, the cuts could be restored.

Lawmakers also could override his reductions.

Nixon, who made a quick return to Missouri on Friday from Philadelphia because of an officer-involved shooting in Ballwin, said the training will not completely go away.

“The State of Missouri provides active shooter trainings to local schools free of charge through the Missouri State Highway Patrol upon request,” spokeswoman Channing Grate said in a statement. “As the governor said … in order to protect funding for core priorities, such as a $70 million increase for K-12 classrooms, many new, expanded or duplicative programs have had to be pared back or put on hold. That being said, in recognition of the importance of keeping our schools safe, $100,000 for this specific active shooter training program is moving forward.”

The money for school safety training began flowing in the aftermath of school shootings in places such as Newtown, Conn., and at a community college in Roseburg, Ore.

The cuts come against the backdrop of a state and nationwide debate on gun violence. In Jefferson City, guns and gun safety were a major topic in the Capitol this spring, with the Republican-led Legislature sending Nixon a package of legislation that loosens state firearms laws.

Nixon vetoed that measure, saying the changes outlined in the legislation would make Missouri less safe by allowing untrained people to carry concealed weapons.

He was in Philadelphia on Friday when a Ballwin police officer was shot, a day after five police officers in Dallas were gunned down by a sniper.

Rather than continue to Europe for a trade mission, Nixon returned to Missouri.

The money for active shooter training was used by scores of large and small school districts for a variety of purposes. In Hazelwood, for example, a grant from the center bankrolled a two-way radio system. In the St. Louis Public School system, the money paid for an anti-bullying program as well as search-and-rescue equipment.

“We did active shooter-school bus and counter-radicalization training for the St. Louis Public School district last August, and a school safety coordinators workshop for St. Louis area schools in early spring,” Fennewald said.

Districts clamored for the money. More than 240 applied for grants, but only 50 were awarded.

In addition to the local school district grants, additional money was provided last year for issues such as cybersecurity, counterbullying, behavioral risk assessment and radicalization.

The program, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice, also paid for a conference for law enforcement officers from throughout the state, including officers from Kirkwood, Maryland Heights, St. Louis County, St. Charles and Wentzville.

“Providing a safe and secure learning environment for students is a top priority for all Missouri school districts and these grants will help fund projects and programs designed to do just that,” Fennewald said in December during an announcement of the grants.

Without the state money, Fennewald said the program’s finances are running low. The last federal money was sent to the state two years ago.

“But that also is almost all spent, with no prospect for additional funding from those sources,” Fennewald said.

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