University leads project to make rural schools safer

University leads project to make rural schools safer

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A research team led by the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center will examine how law enforcement works with rural schools across the state with the goal of increasing safety and emergency preparedness.

A $645,952, two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice will fund the research, which is a collaboration between the NU Public Policy Center and the Nebraska Department of Education. Researchers will use data from the Nebraska Department of Education, crime statistics, census data and survey results from law enforcement and personnel from more than 150 Nebraska schools to examine different strategies and develop ways to increase engagement and safety.

"There's been very little attention on school safety in rural schools," said Mario Scalora, director of the NU Public Policy Center and project leader. "Nobody's been looking at this in a systematic manner."

Scalora said rural schools face different challenges because they have a smaller tax base to draw on and therefore less money to spend on security. Rural law enforcement is also stretched thin, he said, and most rural schools lack a designated school resource officer. As a result, these schools must rely upon creative ways to maximize their efforts.

"These rural schools face many of the same safety issues as their urban and suburban counterparts with fewer resources, and sometimes their own distinct challenges," Scalora said. "That's why this grant is so important. This work will give rural schools more strategies to partner with police to best manage their safety."

Other researchers on the project include Denise Bulling, senior research director at the Public Policy Center; Jolene Palmer, school safety and security director at the Nebraska Department of Education; and Lisa Sample, Reynolds Professor of Public Affairs and Community Service at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

(From left) Denise Bulling, senior research director at the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center; Mario Scalora, director of the NU Public Policy Center; and Jolene Palmer, school safety and security director at the Nebraska Department of Education.
(From left) Denise Bulling, senior research director at the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center; Mario Scalora, director of the NU Public Policy Center; and Jolene Palmer, school safety and security director at the Nebraska Department of Education.