PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The school year just started, and already, parents and teachers want to know what's being done to keep students safe.

The State Board of Education just took a big step to protect Arizona students on campus.

[WATCH: AZ School Board gives the 'OK' to hire more resource officers, counselors]

On Monday, board members unanimously approved a plan to bring more resource officers, counselors and social workers to hundreds of schools across the state.

"What they did today is excellent, and its a great start," said former school counselor Anna Cicero. "Our parents need it. Our students need it and have requested it. And educators will do a better job teaching."

[RELATED: State of our schools]

In May, state lawmakers and the governor approved $20 million in funding to be used specifically to make Arizona schools safer.

State educators have now decided how that money will be spent.

Arizona has lagged behind the rest of the country when it comes to addressing mental health on campus.

Following the growing number of school shootings across the country, there's also an outcry for more uniformed officers.

The new safety plan will allow all Arizona public and charter schools to apply for a new resource officer, counselor or social worker. Volunteers with the non-profit group Moms Demand Action said that it's about time something is done to protect Arizona children.

"Arizona has one of the lowest student-to-counselor ratios," said parent Jessica Catlett. "I'd like to see that improve, and this is a positive first step in that direction."

"Having the children understand that there's somebody that they can go to if they see a behavioral warning sign in a friend is a good policy for any school to have," said Marie Thearle with Moms Demand Action.

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kathy Hoffman, said that each school will decide for themselves whether they need a new resource officer, counselor or social worker.

"In some schools, it might be in a community that requires an SRO," said Hoffman. "Other schools that students may come from [the] foster care system, or from low-income households. Perhaps they need a social worker more than an SRO."

Several Arizona schools already have resource officers or counselors.

State educators estimate the new plan will help between 350-400 schools.

Schools will start applying for the new resources next month, with the hope of getting the new officers and social workers on campus by the end of the year.

Jason Barry is best known for his Dirty Dining Report which airs Fridays at 6:30 p.m. on CBS 5.  He is also the storyteller behind CBS 5's Pay It Forward which airs every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
 
 


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