Vermont is currently one of the healthiest and safest states in America. We also have some of the best and safest schools in the country. Yet Vermont is not immune to the risk of extreme violence in our schools or communities, so the state has taken the following steps to bolster safety in our schools:
- In February of 2018, the Governor issued a memo to lawmakers recommending a range of next steps to help make our communities healthier and our children safer.
- In 2018, worked with lawmakers to pass historic, commonsense gun safety reforms aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. These initiatives included implementing universal background checks, raising the age of purchase to 21 (with some exemptions), allowing Extreme Risk Protection Orders (a.k.a. Red Flag laws), strengthening law enforcement's tools to remove weapons in situations involving domestic violence, and banning bump stocks and high capacity magazines. In 2022, enacted legislation to extend the length of time for the background check process before a default approval is rendered.
- Proposed and secured $5 million in funding for school security grants, which will help schools improve safety and security infrastructure. Secured an additional $1.5 million in FY20 for school safety grants for schools who weren’t able to receive grants in the original round of funding.
- Launched a statewide comprehensive security assessment of all Vermont schools, to help schools further strengthen their safety and security procedures, best practices and infrastructure.
- Created, by Executive Order, a Violence Prevention Task Force.
- Advocated for and signed into law Act 135 of 2018, a domestic terrorism law to criminalize the behavior of those who would plot a crime designed to maximize casualties, like a school shooting – closing a gap in our laws to ensure law enforcement can prevent a tragedy like this before it happens.
- Supported the creation of the Vermont School Crisis Planning Team, which includes collaboration of state staff and partners, including trainings on threat assessment to ensure state staff working with similar populations have the same knowledge.
Modernizing State Law to Protect Kids
- Supported a legislative initiative to repeal the statute of limitations for civil actions based on childhood physical abuse, passed in Act 26 of 2021.
Supporting Children Impacted by the Opioid Crisis
- Proposed and passed investment of $500,000 for a child protection initiative within DCF, which supports parent-child contact and will help reduce the backlog of court cases involving children affected by the opioid epidemic.
- Proposed and passed increased investment in the guardian ad litem program, which supports children in the court system.
- Support the Perinatal Quality Collaborative to tie together statewide efforts and strengthen perinatal and family support systems in the community and clinical settings.
Encouraging Strong, Independent Families
- Secured funding to support the expansion of Strong Families Vermont, an evidence-based sustained home visiting program to help families with newborns.
- Introduced and enacted legislation that made strategic changes to the Vermont Reach Up program to move parents towards sustainable employment and self-sufficiency by using goal-oriented approaches and expanding the definitions of workforce training and employment opportunities.
- Proposed and signed legislation establishing a prudent parent standard for foster parents, aimed at allowing children in foster care to have the same opportunities to participate in activities similar to their peers, including social activities such as sports and field trips.
- Reinforced ongoing work to support children and youth in foster care with safety, permanency, and well-being. Expanded efforts to ensure children and youth in out-of-home care experience childhood and adolescence in ways like their peers not in foster care.
- Proposed and passed investment of 5% increase in foster family payments and increased respite time for foster parents.
- Expanded intensive case management and service coordination to homeless families with children to now serve 10 of 12 AHS districts. Funding and technical assistance for the Family Supportive Housing program has supported providers to add staff, from 10 Service Coordinators to 19 Service Coordinators statewide.
- Expanded support for Native American children by including the new Indigenous People’s liaison, the Indian Child Welfare Act Coordinator. The new position will build collaborative relationships with native tribes, including the Abenaki, and will prioritize kinship care, advancing racial equity work and commitments, repairing harm, preventing future harm, and prioritizing our families’ heritage and culture.
Encouraging Strong, Empowered Youth
- Signed legislation to establish a Vermont Youth Council to advise the Governor and Legislature on issues affecting young people living in Vermont.
- Convened Interagency Afterschool Task Force to identify pathways to universal afterschool available for all Vermont children.