The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 11, 2013

Oklahoma House votes to beef up school security

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

— By Phyllis Zorn

Staff Writer

The state House on Thursday passed four bills intended to beef up school security, a move that locally was met with approval.

The bills grew out of recommendations made by the 23-member Oklahoma Commission on School Security, called together in January by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, an Enid native.

One bill would create a school safety institute in the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security.

“That looks like it would provide school districts like ours with an additional resource where we would have access to additional information about safety, training and the opportunity to collaborate on safety and awareness,” said Amber Fitzgerald, human resources and communications director for Enid Public Schools. “There’s not anything more important to us than school safety.”

Another bill requires schools to run an intruder drill each semester. Schools already do fire drills, tornado drills and lockdown drills.

“Probably the biggest change in procedure is the addition of the intruder drills,” Fitzgerald said. “Our principals, in that instance, would add that as part of their school safety plan.”

A third bill would require schools to collaborate with local emergency responders, sharing their emergency plans.

That probably will be no change for Enid schools, Fitzgerald said.

“We already do that and work with our local emergency management, including the emergency management at Vance,” Fitzgerald said. “If it requires something more extensive than our process now, then we’ll do that.”

The fourth bill would require any firearms found at schools to be reported. Fitzgerald said while none have been found on Enid school campuses to date, it’s already district policy that reports to both campus and city police would be made.

“The passage of the Oklahoma Commission on School Security bills today illustrates the extraordinary commitment Oklahoma’s policymakers have to our students,” Lamb said in an email statement Thursday. “Legislation that was passed today and is now being sent to the governor for signature, also required vision by legislative leadership and a commitment by the professionals that served on the OCSS.

“I applaud the passage of the legislation today, but I’m also reminded that we must as a state continually address school security. No one policy or bill can prevent all evil.”

A handful of representatives questioned whether the proposals would accomplish anything, or were redundant with current law and were meant to score political points.

“I have to tell you, this looks like purely a political statement by some political leaders to bang the drum, get some headlines: Here we go for homeland security, for school security,” said Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, when the safety institute bill was being considered. “It’s unnecessary. It’s going to pass. Hooray, hooray.”

As an example of the redundancy, Morrissette said the Office of Homeland Security should be coordinating with schools, because that duty already is spelled out in statute. His Republican colleague, Mike Reynolds, also of Oklahoma City, wondered why the state needed to tell schools to report firearms when they already do so.

“Are schools exempt from reporting certain crimes?” he asked.

Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to sign the bills.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.