The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 12, 2013

Oklahoma commission studies school security proposals

By Tim Talley
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Members of a state task force created after the deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school began reviewing a list of safety proposals on Tuesday that they will use to help prevent similar attacks in Oklahoma.

The 39 proposals were developed by members of the Oklahoma Commission on School Security and are the result of a series of presentations from school security and terrorism experts on ways to protect the safety of public school students. The task force's final recommendations will be delivered to state lawmakers next month for possible action this year.

Among other things, the proposals include more mental health treatment for troubled students, mandatory training for school staffs on bullying and emergency preparedness, and the creation of a school security institute that would coordinate and standardize school security procedures statewide.

The 22-member task force, headed by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, was formed after a deadly shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killed 20 children and six school employees. The list of school safety proposals does not identify which member of the task force submitted each one.

"We cannot stop evil from occurring," Lamb told task force members. But the task force's recommendations can enhance emergency preparedness guidelines that are already in place and makes Oklahoma schools and students safer.

In 2008, lawmakers adopted the Oklahoma School Security Act. Among other things, the law requires school districts to conduct lockdown drills at each public school. It also requires school administrators to investigate reports of harassment, intimidation, bullying or threatening behavior, including emails or texts.

The proposals include creation of the Oklahoma School Safety and Security Institute, centralized safety and security training for Oklahoma schools. It would provide training opportunities for school administrators, teachers, staff members and law enforcement authorities on how to deal with school security incidents.

Other states have instituted similar standardized school safety training classes. For the past 13 years, authorities in Indiana have operated the School Safety Specialist Academy that provides certified training and information on school safety practices, as well as resources for school safety, security and emergency preparedness planning.

Another proposal that encourages promoting systematic training of school personnel in safe school preparation rebuts suggestions that schools should be armed with guards and faculty designated to carry guns. "Children are safer in school than in any other place — that may include their own homes," the proposal says.

A House committee has passed a measure that gives school boards the option to allow teachers who receive law enforcement training to carry weapons into schools. Several other bills have been introduced to allow those with a handgun license to bring guns onto school campuses.

Other proposals include helping school districts fortify schools with ways to keep intruders out, including secured entrances and school communication, security cameras, security locks for all classrooms and secure entry ways fortified with bullet-proof glass.