Minnesota kids deserve a safe learning environment, a place to strive for academic excellence, explore ideas and grow into adulthood. No one wants our students to become targets or to fear for their safety.

What has happened in schools across the country, like the recent shooting in Parkland, Fla., has shocked our national consciousness and launched a national discussion on school safety — one that we should have here locally and all across the state of Minnesota.

Honestly, we can do much more to ensure student safety, and I encourage city and school leaders, as well as policymakers at the State Capitol, to consider investing in some important changes.

First, our school resource officers should always be properly trained and equipped to respond to a public safety emergency.

They need body armor, a full duty belt, including a gun, and also naloxone (to assist in the event of an overdose).

School resource officers should always be outfitted in a full law enforcement uniform to present a clear and visible deterrent to anyone who would harm a student or an employee of a school district.

Currently in Hennepin County, our school districts contract with our city police officials to perform the duties of school resource officers. These contracts should be reviewed to ensure that schools and police agencies are doing everything they can to maximize school safety.

We have counselors, teachers and coaches to mentor and teach students. We need law enforcement officers to serve as law enforcement officers.

Second, our schools (preschools, K-12, colleges and vocational schools) all should regularly conduct safety assessments, and all employees and students should be trained for preparedness against all hazards (including weather, active shooter and fire safety).

Drills are important for all kinds of hazards — they create heightened levels of awareness and also prevention and deterrence.

I understand that there is a bill to be introduced at the Capitol this year to provide funding for these assessments so that financial limitations should never be an issue.

Finally, I have always advocated for weapons screening in our courthouses. And I believe it is time to consider this for our schools as well.

In the past week, we have seen threats made to students in several Minnesota schools. I am grateful that no one was hurt. These were examples of law enforcement and school officials having a plan in place and following it.

I commend the school officials for taking these threats seriously and working with law enforcement to pursue and eliminate every credible threat. That must be our new standard, because the consequences are so grave.


Rich Stanek is Hennepin County sheriff.