Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall addressed questions about school safety Friday afternoon at an event in Anniston in the wake of a school shooting in Texas earlier in the day.
Ivey and Marshall attended a ceremony remembering two fallen officers, Justin Billa and Keith Earle, whose names were added to the Alabama Law Enforcement Memorial at Centennial Memorial Park.
Marshall told the press he thinks that the Securing Alabama’s Facilities of Education Council, or SAFE Council, formed by Ivey after the Parkland, Fla., shooting that left 17 dead, will help to address potential holes in school security across the state. The Texas shooting killed 10 and wounded 10 others.
“The governor has convened a group to be able to provide specific recommendations,” he said. “I think Governor Ivey will be very proactive in what can be done and implemented immediately, along with our new state superintendent, to be able to see whether or not there are legislative changes that need to take place.”
The council, whose report was released May 7, included the heads of several state agencies, including the Secretary of Law Enforcement Hal Taylor and Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health Lynn Beshear.
Ivey also pointed to the council’s work as a reflection of her commitment to school safety.
“School safety is a high priority,” Ivey told the press after the event. “We’ve got the SAFE Council; they’re meeting again next week. You have the report. There are 10 recommendations that have been itemized. Those recommendations are being reviewed by the respective superintendents to match up with what their respective schools have or don’t have and how much the cost would be.”
The recommendations by the council include calls for hiring appropriately trained school resource officers in all school districts, improving mental health services, and implementing a new “evidence-based threat assessment.”
As Ivey alluded to, however, cost may be an issue. Four of the ten recommendations specifically call for increased funding, but neither the report nor the governor’s office has specified where any additional dollars for school safety measures would come from.
At least one of Marshall’s recommendations was free.
“I think the key for us is to make sure that law enforcement is involved in the discussion about school safety,” he suggested. “They’re our experts on active shooter situations. We need to make sure we have their input going forward.”
When it comes to specific proposals, though, Marshall outlined policies that could potentially cost the state or local governments millions.
“I absolutely support putting resource officers in every school,” Marshall said. “Not only do you see the fact that they’re there from a security standpoint, but they also develop relationships with students. That relationship allows for SROs to get information about students and concerns they may have so that they’re freely able to share from an intelligence standpoint about risks before they happen.”
Marshall also said that improving physical security of school buildings is crucial.
“One thing we have to make sure is that we have physical security for the school itself: that we are limiting access from the outside to be able to enter the schools,” he said. “Beyond that, it’s specific to each particular school and each particular jurisdiction. I know that we’ve had multiple proposal announced around the state, but I think again it needs to be a combination of school officials and law enforcement together to be able to decide what works best for individual schools.”
When asked by The Star about proposals to arm teachers, Ivey and Marshall had slightly different views.
Marshall said he would support such a proposal if local officials were on board.
“I would only support it if the local sheriff or the chief in that particular jurisdiction likewise believed that was appropriate,” he said.
Ivey, on the other hand, did not seem keen to arm teachers, even those that volunteer for it. She noted that the SAFE Council met with many people around the state and “not one” ever gave a reason for teachers to be armed.
Ivey did not seem to rule any actions out, though.
“All options are still on the table,” she said.
Ivey has set a deadline of June 15 for officials to plan the implementation of SAFE Council recommendations that do not require legislative action.