The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

April 16, 2013

Gov. Fallin signs school gun safety bill package

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin signed four bills into law on Tuesday that are intended to make Oklahoma schools safer in the wake of last year's elementary school shooting in Connecticut, though several education officials said the laws may not accomplish much.

One of the new laws establishes a school safety institute within the state's Homeland Security Office to provide training for schools and police. The others slightly modify existing laws that require schools to run intruder drills, report all firearms found on campus and share their emergency plans with local emergency responders.

The proposals came from a committee convened by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb to study school security after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December. On Tuesday, Fallin said those shootings were a call to action for schools and parents.

"For the rest of the nation, the Sandy Hook tragedy was an unwelcome reminder that we must be vigilant in our efforts to ensure that our schools are safe and that they are well-prepared in emergency situations," the governor said during a formal bill-signing ceremony at the Capitol that included Lamb and other commission members.

But more than a dozen school officials and law enforcement officers, from the state's largest and smallest school districts, told The Associated Press that the laws won't make schools much safer because they already collaborate extensively with local emergency responders, hold lockdown drills and seek training from the state's Office of Homeland Security. Many said they have done so for years.

"So they're important, but we already do that," Ira Harris, superintendent of the 300-student Boise City Public School in Oklahoma's Panhandle, said Tuesday. "I don't want to beat my Legislature up, but it seems like they look for stuff to do sometimes."

The four proposals sailed through the Senate and the House, meeting near-universal praise as proactive ways to protect Oklahoma's children. A fifth recommendation from Lamb's school safety committee involves mental health services, and Lamb and other officials said they expect that need to be met through ongoing state budget negotiations.

At the bill signing, the lieutenant governor maintained the bills' provisions were meaningful.

"I would agree that some schools ... are performing these responsibilities already," Lamb said. "But not all schools are."

Several school officials took a similar stance, saying the bills could serve as a valuable starting point to draw attention to other school safety options and, they hoped, bring the funding to match.

"If we had funding to address safety needs — for instance, if we had the ability to have the buzz-in systems at the front door, cameras at the front door, cameras around the school, a double entrance ... that would be the best thing that we could have," Sandra Park, deputy superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, said last Thursday.

Referring to the Homeland Security training institute, Park added: "What I would say is that hopefully with the centralized center for us, it will lead to those measures for safety across all schools."

A separate bill inspired by recent school shootings would have allowed school districts to decide whether trained teachers could carry firearms in school. But that plan stalled because a Senate committee declined to give it a hearing April 1.

Rural superintendents expressed mixed feelings at the proposal's failure, noting emergency response times in their districts could be 20 to 30 minutes.

"If it wasn't against the law, I think our board would require it," said Harris, the Boise City superintendent, who called his Panhandle district the most remote in the state.

As for the four bills signed Tuesday, Harris said he at least appreciated the attention given to school safety.

"I can't fault anybody ... if they really, really are doing it for our children and not some political stance," he said.

 

1
Text Only
National and world
  • APTOPIX Hospital Shoo_Hass.jpg Official: Hospital gunman intended to kill others

    A psychiatric patient ranted about a hospital gun ban before opening fire at the suburban medical complex, killing his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist before the doctor pulled out his own weapon and fired back.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 25, 2014

  • g000258000000000000245c0063741aaafcc815c5b3199362fb09f8a7c3.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    
Gibson called Diamond City Hall for help but the police chief was out on another call. The city clerk came to join in the surveillance ...

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Severe Weather web.jpg Tornado slams Virginia campground; 2 dead

    A couple from New Jersey was killed when a tree fell on their tent. Their 13-year-old son, in a tent next to them, had life-threatening injuries.
    He was among three dozen people hurt.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Aviations Bad Week web.jpg Bad week for aviation: Airline disasters come in a cluster

    Industry analysts and safety experts shake their heads at the seeming randomness of the tragedies, saying they can find no common themes. Nor do they think the events indicate that flying is suddenly becoming less safe.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Economic Patriotism web.jpg Obama wants limits on mergers abroad by U.S. companies

    “They’re technically renouncing their U.S. citizenship. They’re declaring they are based someplace else even though most of their operations are here,” Obama said at a technical college in Los Angeles. “You know, some people are calling these companies corporate deserters.”
    He also charged that such companies are “cherry-picking the rules.”

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona Execution web.jpg As inmate died, lawyers debated if he was in pain

    Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan read a statement Thursday outside his office dismissing the notion the execution was botched, calling it an “erroneous conclusion” and “pure conjecture.” He said IVs in the inmate’s arms were “perfectly placed” and insisted that Wood felt no pain.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Economic Recovery web.jpg U.S. economy, though sluggish, may now be sturdier

    • Inflation is under control. Runaway price increases would be destructive. Low inflation can lay a foundation for growth.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast web.jpg Casualty numbers raise questions about Gaza war

    A Palestinian health official put the death toll at 695 and said more than 4,100 were wounded, with civilian casualties rising sharply since Israel sent tanks and troops into Gaza last week in its first ground operation in five years.
    Israel has not offered its own count, but Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said Wednesday that 210 Gaza militants were killed since the ground operation began.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Oil Train Fires web.jpg Stopping deadly oil train fires: New rules planned

    Accident investigators have complained for decades that older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, are too easily punctured or ruptured, spilling their contents when derailed. Since 2008, there have been 10 significant derailments in the U.S. and Canada in which crude oil has spilled from ruptured tank cars, often igniting and resulting in huge fireballs. The worst was a runaway oil train that exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic a year ago, killing 47 people.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads