By Elsie Arntzen

State Superintendent

Montana Office of Public Instruction 

As parents send their children into the new school year and teachers welcome them into the classroom, safety is on everyone’s mind. When it comes to student safety, the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) and Montana schools take a comprehensive approach. Student safety is not just school security, it is also promoting mental health, multi-tiered systems of student support, and building infrastructure.

Student safety is a top priority at the OPI. That is why we have taken the lead to secure crucial federal and state resources that will directly assist schools in supporting their students during the 2019-2020 school year.

Last year, Montana received a STOP School Violence Act grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. Since then, the OPI has begun revitalizing the Montana School Safety Advisory Committee and created numerous online and in-person professional development opportunities for educators in coordination with the University of Montana’s Center for School Safety. The OPI also helped redirect existing state-level education funds into local school safety grants through the 2019 Montana Legislature. In addition, the OPI has been working with local districts and counties to ensure that they have emergency operations plans and Interdisciplinary Child Information and School Safety Teams in place as required by recent legislative sessions.

The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that 37-percent of Montana high school students felt hopeless for two weeks or more in a row, up 10-percent from 2009. The same survey showed that 20-percent of students had contemplated suicide, up 7-percent from 2009. The OPI is encouraging schools to use their new federal Title IV-A funds to create programming specifically around student health, support, and safety. There are also numerous resources available online and additional local resources in each school and community.

Finally, the physical health and security of students and their data is critical. For this reason, the OPI has led the way in bringing schools to the table as DPHHS considers new rules to ensure that drinking water and air quality are safe for Montana students. The OPI also participated in a school cybersecurity panel this month with the Department of Homeland Security, school leaders, and elected representatives from Montana. The OPI continues to make student and school data security a priority at the state-level.

It is Montana’s commitment to school safety that led the U.S. Department of Education to invite the OPI to participate in President Trump’s Federal Commission on School Safety, which led to the creation of a report of best practices that schools can consider. Further, my colleagues at the Council of Chief State School Officers requested that Montana have a seat at the table on their School Safety Steering Committee, which led to a state-by-state repository of school safety resources . Student safety will continue to be Montana’s priority this school year, and into the future.

(1) comment


Overall this is good news however the staff at the school my son went to was part of the problem. I took him out of school because of their refusal to have a teacher apologise for his behavior. Long story short, my husband is deceased. He taught my son how to shoot a bow, he's been shooting since he was 2. Has beautiful form. My husband's instructor was Andy Hall, second in world competition. The school was doing a PE unit on bow shooting. My son was doing very well. The teacher told him he was doing it all wrong, from how he knocked the arrow, held it, drew it, stood and shot it. He went on to tell him that he had been teaching this for 30 years. Whoever had taught my son was an idiot, knew nothing and a variety of other awful things. My son quietly put the bow and arrows on the grass in front of him and left school.. He came home, walked the 12 miles btw. And literally had a freaking meltdown for 2 days.. When I explained the situation to the school I was told. We will not have the teacher apologise.. That was the last in a long line of crappy administrating and adult behavior. I took my son out. He's home schooled and has been taking pretests for his GED. Getting 98% he is 16.. I think instead of fixing kids schools should look at bad teachers and remove them. Get rid of tenure it causes more damage than good.

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