Making schools safe: Alabama Legislature plays important role in this process
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 14, 2013 | 2462 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jacksonville High School junior Will Cole shows new resource officer Chris
Jordan around campus Monday. (Photo by Anita Kilgore/Consolidated News Service)
Jacksonville High School junior Will Cole shows new resource officer Chris Jordan around campus Monday. (Photo by Anita Kilgore/Consolidated News Service)
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By one standard, Alabama schools are already safe. According to a report released recently by the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, only 2 percent of all reported violent offenses and 3 percent of all reported simple assaults in Alabama in 2011 occurred in schools.

But December’s Newtown, Conn., school shooting makes it clear that those low figures can change abruptly and horribly.

Thus, it is no surprise that when Alabama legislative leaders called for a “Statehouse summit on school safety,” the turnout was so great that the meeting had to be moved to a larger room. Lawmakers, law enforcement officers and educators shared ideas on what to do and what might be done. All agreed that this will be a priority issue when the state Legislature meets in regular session next month.

During the summit, most agreed that arming teachers is not the answer — a plan that has little support among the teachers who would be armed. One legislator, Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville, said he is working on a bill that would allow some teachers and staff personnel to be trained and armed to deal with an active shooter situation. This page hopes that plan does not pass. Teachers and staff personnel have other duties and responsibilities if there is an emergency, and to take them away from those duties in order to confront a shooter is not a particularly good idea.

A better response would be to do what the Jacksonville school superintendent and local law enforcement have done. Working together, they have arranged for an additional resource officer to be assigned to the schools, which means there will be a uniformed and armed officer in the city’s elementary and high school — walking the halls and interacting with students.

Jacksonville’s new officer is trained in dealing with active shooter situations — training, you may be surprised to learn, that only 28 percent of the state’s police force has undergone. That is something else the state Legislature should address.

Although additional and better-trained personnel may not entirely solve the problem, it will be a step in the right direction. That, plus input for mental-health professionals to help authorities find ways to deal with disturbed individuals before they become violent, will do a great deal to protect our children.

This page expects the state Legislature to give schools the support they need.
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