Task force developing strategies to enhance safety in Alabama schools

The panel of Alabama legislators, law enforcement officials, and other experts focused on making schools safer recently had the opportunity to listen to presentations from various vendors. This was a significant step in their ongoing efforts to develop recommendations for enhancing school safety.

According to Representative Alan Baker, a Republican from Brewton, the main objective of the Advisory Commission on School Safety and Security is to develop all-encompassing strategies to prevent school shootings. Additionally, the commission aims to ensure preparedness in responding to any unfortunate incidents that may occur.

“We are committed to promoting a culture of school safety and ensuring that leaders at each school take this matter seriously,” Baker emphasized. “It is crucial that everyone recognizes the significance of this issue and actively participates in our efforts.”

According to Baker, this encompasses not just educators, counselors, and administrators, but also custodial staff, cafeteria workers, and groundskeepers.

“They also need to function as the eyes and ears,” he said.

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According to Baker, the commission is anticipated to release a report within the upcoming months. He mentioned that the report might encompass suggestions for both legislation and funding.

In 2018, former House Speaker Mac McCutcheon took the initiative to establish the commission following a tragic incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A shooter claimed the lives of 17 innocent individuals.

Last year, Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter brought back the commission that was previously led by McCutcheon. The current chair of the commission is Rep. Terri Collins, a Republican from Decatur, who also serves as the chair of the House Education Policy Committee.

Three companies, namely Critical Response Group, Navigate 360, and nSide, delivered their presentations to the commission on Wednesday.

During the event, the company representatives covered various topics related to prevention and response. They emphasized the significance of having detailed and current maps of school floor plans and grounds, as well as the importance of effective communication with law enforcement and other responders.

The discussion also focused on the physical security features of buildings, training programs, and initiatives aimed at identifying and addressing the underlying factors that can lead to violent incidents stemming from grievances.

During the panel discussion, Steven McKinney, the CEO and founder of nSide, emphasized the importance of training and awareness in enhancing school safety in Alabama. McKinney’s company has developed a comprehensive school safety platform, which was successfully implemented in 148 out of 149 school systems across the state during the 2022-23 academic year. The nSide platform provides essential features such as campus mapping, emergency operations plans, training resources, and advanced technology solutions.

School systems often find it challenging to allocate funds towards safety measures unless they have dedicated funding for that purpose, according to McKinney.

McKinney expressed concern that school safety is not a top priority for many counties due to their severe financial difficulties.

The commission plans to convene once more in February. According to Baker, the recommendations made by the commission and any subsequent changes will not be the final solution. He likened school safety initiatives to immunization shots, which necessitate periodic boosters.

“We aim for Alabama to lead the way in school safety, acknowledging that any state or school could face a sudden crisis,” Baker expressed. “Therefore, our goal is to be as prepared as possible.”

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