Arizona Department of Education Makes Change For School Grants To Prioritize Police Presence

Arizona state superintendent Tom Horne announced his first priority is to ensure an armed officer is in every school.

As the Arizona Department of Education opens the latest round of School Safety Grant Program applications, Superintendent Tom Horne is urging schools to prioritize having armed officers from law enforcement or highly trained security providers on campus.

“Every school should have a law enforcement officer to protect students and staff, and this should be accomplished on an urgent basis”, Horne said. “Delay in implementing this goal could leave schools more vulnerable to a tragic catastrophe. Schools that currently have no armed presence yet submit grants applications that do not request an officer will not receive a recommendation from this Department to the State Board of Education.”

In recent weeks, throughout the Valley, there have been reported incidents of heightened school threats, real and fake weapons found on campus, and disturbing social media postings regarding school violence. Department staff have also received phone calls from teachers in a Phoenix-area high school district complaining of fights including one involving multiple students in which a female teacher was knocked down. This is a growing trend not just in Arizona but throughout the country.

Horne added, “I am a longtime supporter of each school having a counselor to help ensure the well-being of students. As a school board member in 1978, I was the only one to vote against a proposal to eliminate counselors from that district’s schools. Schools still ought to have counselors but providing a safe school atmosphere that requires an armed presence is the first priority.”

As part of the Department’s service-oriented mission, Michael Kurtenbach, the former Assistant Chief of the Phoenix Police Department, has been named the Director of School Safety. He will be assisted by former Phoenix Police Commander Allen Smith. The two will work throughout the state providing schools with resources and expertise to implement effective personnel and safety procedures. They will also assist school administrators in building trust with students to foster specific types of communication that help support a safer school environment.

Kurtenbach has more than 32 years of experience in law enforcement. He has served as Vice Chair of Terros Behavioral Services, Advisory Board Member of the ASU Center for Violence Prevention, Board Member of AZ Common Ground, and numerous law enforcement associations.

He has been awarded the Freedom Fund Award for Law Enforcement from the Maricopa County NAACP, the MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Award, Hero Award from the Center for Neighborhood Leadership and multiple law enforcement honors including the Phoenix Police Department Medal of Valor, Distinguished Service Award, Community Based Policing Award, among many others.

Arizona has the second worst ratio in the nation when it comes to students and counselors, at 651 students for every counselor, according to the American School Counselor Association.