School Security Plans Skirt Law
All of Georgia's 184 public school districts may have a security plan, but not all districts can say their plan has the approval of the state, according to a recent Associated Press review of state data.
Nearly a decade after the state passed a law requiring school systems to get approval of their security plans by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, nearly 20 percent of districts haven’t complied.
About half of the 32 districts without approval never even bothered to submit their plans to the agency. Administrators in such delinquent districts blame budget and personnel constraints, which keep them focused on meeting federal NCLB mandates.
Numerous other states—such as North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Texas—have required school districts to create and adhere to safety and crisis preparedness plans since the Columbine and Red Lake high school shootings, but not all districts have complied, says Ron Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center.
Unfortunately, the statutes often carry no penalties for districts that do not comply. Says Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, “There are few carrots and absolutely no sticks associated with state laws and regulations requiring school districts to have ? such plans.”
The idea behind the Georgia law, passed in 1999 just before the Columbine massacre, was that GEMA can better help districts during emergencies if the agency knows the school’s protocol in advance. Districts can also better fend off lawsuits from parents if they have a state-approved security plan in place, experts say.
Rhee Takes Heat for D.C. School Violence
It's no small secret that Michelle Rhee, chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, has an aggressive plan to address and reorganize the nearly 50,000-student district. Her “renew, revitalize, and reorganize” (RRR) plan has already led to the closing of more than 20 schools and the firing of dozens of principals and teachers deemed ineffective, along with pay raise proposals for teachers who give up tenure.
But it may also be producing some nasty side effects. Since November an unusually high number of violent incidents has occurred in the district: A student at Ballou High School was maced and stabbed, 19 Dunbar High girls were accused of fighting and arrested, three teachers at Hart Middle School were assaulted, and a violent outbreak at Anacostia High left five students injured, three with stab wounds.
The D.C. council is scrutinizing Rhee on safety and security issues, with observers pointing to the fact that rival gangs are now being placed within open range of one another as a result of Rhee’s school closings and mergers.
“I think the [reorganization] was a bad idea from the beginning,” D.C. state board of ed member William Lockridge recently told The Washington Post. “The community forewarned the administration that this was to happen, and it’s happened.”
Rhee admits that police and security are not the answer, saying that overflowing the corridors with more city police and private security guards is not the way to end the violence. She is now calling for improved peer mediation and conflict management programs, such as those sponsored by the anti-violence group Peaceoholics.
But in the meantime, Rhee says that metal detectors will be more finely tuned to better sense all forms of weapons and that security officers will receive better training to maintain order within schools.