After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, our nation had to make our buildings more secure, specifically government buildings, and we did just that. And after 9/11 in 2001, we had to make our airports and airplanes more secure, and we did just that. Unfortunately, in today’s environment, we must put a focus on making our schools safer than they have ever been before. As a parent and senator, I am working tirelessly to rectify this situation. It is important to note that school safety has always been a priority, but just like adjustments had to be made after the bombing in 1995 and 9/11, we must do more to make our schools as safe as possible. It is our moral obligation.
To begin this process in Georgia, I sponsored Senate Resolution 935 during the 2018 Legislative Session to create the Senate School Safety Study Committee. I serve as the chairman of the nine-member committee that is traveling the state and meeting with local leaders, school officials, teachers, students, law enforcement officials, and other stakeholders to determine ways that each community can keep their schools and children safe. During our journey around the state, our main goal is to listen. We realize that school safety is an important topic that everyone wants to address, so we plan to visit different areas of the state to hear what they are currently doing in regard to school safety and where they see a need for improvement.
Along with traveling the state during the interim, it’s important to note the steps we took during the 2018 Session to address school safety plans. As a start, the Fiscal Year 2019 General Budget includes an additional $16 million to fund grants for school safety statewide. Also, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 763, which will require that every public school prepare a safety plan effective July 1, 2018. This plan must include input from the same stakeholders who are meeting with the Study Committee throughout the state. This legislation also requires that “every public school shall conduct drills with students, teachers, and other school personnel on the execution of school safety plans in such form and at such intervals based upon guidance from the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.” Combined with fully funding our schools and education formula, I believe we’re doing the right things.
During the first meeting, I announced the launch of a website dedicated to the Senate School Safety Study Committee (GaSenateK12Safety.com). The committee encourages all interested parties to visit the website to provide any ideas and feedback for the committee members to review, compile, and consider before recommendations are made in preparation for the 2019 Legislative Session. This website will serve as a one-stop-shop for all meeting information including presentations, videos, and other supporting materials. It’s impossible for the committee to meet with every constituent who wants to provide feedback, so we hope people use the “contact us” page on the website to have their opinions and voices heard.
As we hold our meetings during the interim, there are no preconceived notions. We know there will not be a one-step solution or a one-size-fits-all approach that will address school safety. After meeting with everyone around our diverse state, we will compile some best practices as recommendations for progress moving forward. We will tailor our actionable recommendations based on what works best for each area of the state.