By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey held a press conference to unveil her “Smart on Safety Initiative.”
Ivey said that she is committed to keeping Alabama’s schoolchildren safe, and this plan will aid in enhancing school safety and security in the state.
“In announcing a four-pronged approach to school safety, we will build on the foundation already in place and allow all available state resources to be focused on efforts to keep our children safe,” Ivey said. “Ensuring safety in our schools is a bipartisan issue, and we must do all we can to prevent violence and be sure we are ready to respond in the event such violence does occur.”
Ivey said that the state will support local school officials as they meet their own safety needs. Governor Ivey supports permitting the Education Advancement and Technology Fund to be used for school security.
Ivey also said that she supports schools intervening in the lives of students who are at risk of harming themselves or others, before they act violently. Schools will be encouraged to identify at-risk students through student engagement and other factors.
Ivey also proposed creating Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs). The administration said that when a school emergency occurs, school personnel must be able to act immediately before first responders arrive. Schools must work with law enforcement and first responders to provide a coordinated response to emergencies. Each school will continuously update its EOP, and students and school personnel will receive regular training on the EOP.
At the press conference Ivey signed an executive order creating the Governor’s Securing Alabama Facilities of Education (SAFE) Council. The Council will be composed of the Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Secretary of the Office of Information Technology, the Alabama State Superintendent of Education and the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health. The SAFE Council will report to the governor by April 30, 2018.
GOP Primary opponent Scott Dawson responded, “Establishing another task force is no substitute for action and when it comes to the safety of Alabama children, decisive leadership from the state’s highest office is absolutely necessary. I won’t kick the can to another task force . Task force is government code for doing nothing. With the Alabama Legislature’s last day in session being April 23rd, the council’s report deadline will be too late for action. Today’s announcement has every appearance of campaign theater, not sound public policy and leadership.”
“When Kay Ivey assumed office after the resignation of Governor Robert Bentley, she disbanded 18 task forces which she claimed had been ineffective and promised to ‘make decisions ‘ not ‘ kick the can,” Dawson continued. “As a parent with two kids who attended public school in Alabama I don’t want Alabama to be the last to implement a safe method for arming school personnel for the protection of teachers and students. We need action today. Nineteen other states have passed legislation allowing for some form of a security program for school personnel to coordinate with law enforcement and qualify to carry a firearm incognito. Our l egislature enacted a local law for Franklin County , Alabama in 2013 which allows armed teachers in schools and has operated under this law without problems.”
“I envision Alabama schools allowing teachers who volunteer, and are properly trained, qualified , and deputized to provide armed protection for our schools in coordination with local law enforcement,” Dawson continued. “Their names would be kept confidential—reported only to the superintendent and local law enforcement—and they would receive bonuses for their participation. Kay Ivey’s indecision on a significant issue like this is a clear example to the people of Alabama that she will be more of the same in Montgomery and in this instance our children’s lives are being placed in jeopardy while the Governor restores the Bentley tradition of do – nothing task forces.”
State Rep. Will Ainsworth, R-Guntersville, has already introduced legislation similar to the plan that Dawson describes.
The major party primaries will be on June 5.