In the aftermath of numerous shootings at schools and elsewhere that plagued the nation during 2012, school districts around the country are reevaluating the effectiveness of their safety plans. In Alabama, one of the largest school districts in the country, Mobile County, is joining with the rest of the districts in the state to establish active shooter policies and other changes to school safety. The proposed changes are accompanied by plenty of debate, as districts are forced to look at controversial policies involving gun ownership and armed security in public schools.
This video offers an active shooter emergency plan from the Federal Government.
Active Shooter Policies First on Drawing Board
AL.com reports that the first policies to be given serious consideration by the state board of education will be those involving active shooter scenarios. The board recently voted unanimously to approve a resolution to implement a new active shooter policy in all public schools throughout the state. This new policy includes annual active shooter drills, with training for school staff to be overseen by the Alabama Department of Homeland Security.
“We want to make it more difficult for the bad guys to get access to our schools,” Mary Scott Hunter, a member of the board of education, told AL.com.
According to Dothan First, the active shooter drill will differ from the standard “lockdown” exercises previously done in schools. The new drills will specifically address the issue of an intruder entering the school. Appointed school personnel will go through a training program by the state’s department of homeland security specifically to deal with active shooter scenarios. Training by the department will be up and running within a month, ensuring new policies involving functional shooter scenarios will be implemented sooner rather than later.
The Daily Home reports that schools in Alabama currently have two “lockdown” drills every year and exercises for weather and fire. Some districts are also managing school-by-school safety assessments to identify areas of security weakness and ways to improve security in those areas. Schools are performing practical steps to increase school security, including minimizing access points into the schools and locking both external and internal doors at all times.
This video explains why schools need an active shooter plan.
Police Officers Coming to Some Schools
Some schools in Alabama are also bringing in police officers as second school resource officers. These police officers spend a significant portion of their workdays walking school hallways, talking to students and staff, and monitoring the surrounding community. These officers also bridge the gaps between the local police department, school staff, and others in the community that can take an active role in improving the safety of the schools within that district.
The Daily Home reports on one particular School Resource Officer hired by the Sylacauga school system in Alabama. Officer Willie Kidd spends his days inside Sylacauga schools, getting to know students and staff. Kidd also works with the surrounding community to coordinate concerns between local authorities, police departments, and school officials.
“In the past, it was either an incident in school, or it happened in the street, and the two didn’t intersect at all,” Kidd explained to The Daily Home. “With the SRO (school resource officer), you know what’s going on in school and on the street to give everybody a better understanding of what students are dealing with because their life continues beyond the school day.”
Moving Beyond Controversy
In addition to the current security procedures already implemented in schools and the addition of active shooter policies, other proposals are in the works in Alabama and elsewhere around the country. For example, another article at AL.com reports that two state lawmakers have proposed the addition of armed educators in schools – either by allowing certain personnel to carry guns or training as reserve law officers. Those in favor of such a policy believe that the addition of armed personnel would deter would-be shooters and provide necessary security should an intruder come into the school.
Despite support for such proposals, many Alabama educators and lawmakers have opposed such a move, voicing opinions that weapons possession on school grounds should be limited to authorized law enforcement officials. Currently, state law specifically prohibits the carrying of weapons into schools by anyone other than police officers, and many want to keep that rule in place, despite additional concerns over school safety. Alabama’s State Superintendent of Education has urged lawmakers to move past this controversial proposal to other security steps that can be implemented without undue controversy.
Additional Security Policies to be Implemented in Atlanta
In addition to the new active shooter policies, Alabama lawmakers have introduced the Healthy Kids and Healthy Families Coalition, designed to provide state services to families in need, including mental health services. Addressing the issue of mental health in light of recent shootings is another primary concern for lawmakers and educators across the country. This coalition will be funded with a budget of $5 million, re-distributed from other education programs in the state.
As state lawmakers and educators look at other ways to beef up security in Alabama schools, Bice has warned against adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to school security policies and funding. The state superintendent has warned this approach could take the budget from areas that need more security procedures in place and give it to school districts that don’t require as much funding. Instead, Bice wants to encourage an individualized approach that addresses security needs at the district and school levels for better allocation of resources.
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