Georgia School Safety: What’s happened and what’s to come
In the wake of the 19 children and 2 teachers being killed at Robb Elementary in Ulvalvek, Texas, Governor Brian P. Kemp provided an update on school safety measures and resources in the State of Georgia as local parents inquire if their children are safe in schools.
“As the parents of three daughters – including one who is a first-grade teacher – Marty and I join all Georgians in mourning yesterday’s senseless targeting of school children in Texas,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “Focusing on school safety and improving Georgia’s mental health system are two issues that we tackled immediately upon taking office in 2019. We want to reassure Georgia families today that we have worked closely with the General Assembly and state agencies to ensure our students and educators have secure learning environments. We will continue to do all we can to protect Georgians – and especially our state’s most treasured asset, our children.”Governor Brian Kemp
Currently, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency leads school safety training efforts in Georgia and there are currently 8 Homeland Security Coordinators (sworn law enforcement officers) around the state whose primary function is to assist schools and local law enforcement with school safety. In 2019, Governor Kemp signed House Bill 514 into law, creating the Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission. The Commission helped inform the Mental Health Parity Act that lawmakers passed in 2022 which includes reforms and resources to address mental health challenges in Georgia.
Per OCGA 20-2-1185 “every public school shall prepare a safety plan to help curb the growing incidence of violence in schools.” With this in mind, GEMA/HS is currently redeveloping the Georgia School Safety Plan template in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Education and the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The newly revised School Safety Plan Guide and Template is slated to be unveiled at the 2022 Georgia School Safety and Homeland Security Conference in Columbus, GA on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022.
As a measure to audit school systems for vulnerabilities and improve their level of safety, GEMA/HS developed the Site Threat Access and Response Audit (STAR Audit) which has led to the following actions:
- Lead over 120 Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training have been conducted for 400+ personnel.
- HSC’s have conducted 540 School Safety Site Assessments that gauge existing or potential hazards, conditions, or practices that are present.
Despite these measures and in the wake of the recent school shooting, national experts are continuing to ask questions about how schools protect students and teachers and learn from previous mistakes. The current administration, they’ve focused on finding funding for mental health and school safety measures.
- In 2019, $69 million was set aside for school security grants, ensuring every public school in Georgia received $30,000 to implement school security measures.
- In January 2022, $6 million in additional GEER funding for student mental health initiatives.
In March of 2022, Governor Kemp hosted a round table discussion with state and school leaders focused on school safety with state and local law enforcement.