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Ivey executive order puts more guns in schools

Gov. Kay Ivey announced the implementation of the Alabama Sentry Program, which provides for an additional security measure in schools that do not have a School Resource Officer.

The Ivey administration said in a statement that the Alabama Sentry Program is a voluntary program that will permit administrators in schools, without an SRO, to maintain a firearm on campus. The weapon will be kept in a secured place in the event it is needed to respond to an active shooter situation.

The Sentry Program will require that the administrator successfully complete training created and certified by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). Unlike teachers, school administrators have complete access to their schools and are responsible for the safety of all students at the school, not an individual classroom.

“The Governor’s SAFE Council recommended adding more School Resource Officers throughout our state, a solution that I support, and will work with the legislature to implement,” Ivey said. “However, until we have a concrete plan to increase the number of SROs, we must provide a way for schools to protect their students in the upcoming school year. I have created the Alabama Sentry Program to provide additional security measures for our children, and to utilize the current summer break to train those who volunteer to be a sentry,” Governor Ivey said. “The Alabama Sentry plan is a reasonable and measured approach to provide an additional tool for schools without a resource officer. With the unfortunate continued occurrence of school violence across our country, we cannot afford to wait until the next legislative session.”

Ivey established the Sentry Program through administrative action, under existing law. The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) and ALEA, acting through the Governor’s Securing Alabama’s Facilities of Education (SAFE) Council, will develop a memorandum of understanding, implementation regulations, and guidance to participants.

ALEA and ALSDE will establish guidelines for training requirements, stress tests, mental-health evaluations, and drug screenings.

Joining Governor Ivey at the announcement was Alabama Secretary of Law Enforcement Hal Taylor and Eric Mackey, Alabama’s recently appointed Superintendent of Education.

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“I believe this is a common-sense approach to increasing security in our schools,” Taylor said. “The SAFE Council worked hard with officials from around the state to create a list of recommendations.”

“Schools are sanctuaries of learning and, as such, they must be safe places for our children to learn, knowing that the adults around them are watching out for their safety and security,” Mackey said. “With recent events around our country, now is the time to act. The Alabama Sentry Program is one way for us to put more safety resources in schools without having to seek new funding. This is truly a step in the right direction. I look forward to working with Secretary Taylor and the entire SAFE Council to implement this program.”

A school administrator must seek the approval of their local superintendent, local school board, and county sheriff to participate in the Sentry Program. School administrators seeking to assume the duties of school sentry must possess a valid Alabama school administrator certificate and a valid concealed-carry pistol permit; must be appointed as a reserve sheriff’s deputy; must be an active school administrator in a public elementary or secondary school without an SRO; and must pass a drug screening, a mental-health assessment, and a stress test. Sentries will be subject to random drug screenings, annual training, mental-health, and stress test recertification.

A school sentry’s duties will be written to include “the use of lethal force to defend the students, faculty, staff, and visitors of his or her school from the threat of imminent bodily harm or death by an armed intruder.” School sentries shall only exercise their duties in response to an armed intruder.

School sentries will be required to keep their firearms in a secured weapon storage system. The state is not picking up any of the cost of implementing the Sentry program. School sentries, or their employing board of education, shall be responsible for acquiring and maintaining a weapons-storage system, an approved weapon, ammunition, and a specially-designed bullet-proof vest.

The Sentry program still does not trust teachers with firearms: only approved school administrators. The state has struggled to come up with a plan to deal with the school shooting phenomenon. Evil people attack schools and unfortunately most schools are “soft” targets with little if any security. The only way to stop a gunman is with another gunman; but not every school have a school resource officers.

Franklin County schools already have a similar program, thanks to local legislation sponsored by state Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay.

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Competing school security plans that would arm more school officials was introduced by Rep. Will Ainsworth, R-Guntersville, and Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla.

Ivey is running in the Republican primary on Tuesday.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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