Friday, April 12, 2013

Four School Safety Measures Head to Governor

OKLAHOMA CITY – Four bills authored by House Speaker T.W. Shannon related to the issue of school safety passed full votes of the House Thursday.

In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., late last year, Speaker Shannon, President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and Lt. Governor Todd Lamb created the Oklahoma Commission on School Security. The Commission submitted a report to state leaders detailing suggestions on things the state of Oklahoma can do to make its schools safer and more secure. These four bills are a direct result of that report.

“Our children are precious and we must take the necessary steps to protect them while they are spending the day at school learning,” said Speaker Shannon, R-Lawton. “Recent tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary remind us that we must remain vigilant in the protection of our children. As a father, this is a particularly important issue to me.”

Senate Bill 256 would require school districts to conduct lockdown drills in addition to fire, intruder, and tornado emergency drill.

With the passage of Senate Bill 257, the “Oklahoma School Security Institute” is one step closer to reality. SB 257 directs the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security to designate a division within the office as the OSSI. The Institute would act as a central hub of information and resources related to school security and risk assessments to campuses. Objectives and goals of the Institute include: maximization of school security and training; implementation of safety drills and facilitation of information related to school safety.

Creating a hard deadline date for school administrators of Nov. 1 annually, Senate Bill 258 requires institutions of higher learning to provide reports to emergency responders and agencies with details of updated plans for protecting students, faculty and visitors from disasters and emergencies.

Senate Bill 259 would require school authorities to immediately report to law enforcement if a firearm is discovered on a student that is not a minor or an adult that isn’t authorized to possess a firearm on school property. Also, the bill dictates the weapon in question to be delivered to law enforcement.

“With the passage of these four measures, it is my hope that we’re doing right by our children to ensure they have a safe and secure environment in which to learn and grow,” Speaker Shannon said. “It is vital to protect our children properly and I believe these bills will improve the safety environment of our schools.”

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb in early March released the policy recommendations of the Oklahoma School Security Commission.

“As parents we want all children to do well academically, but our first priority is for our children, our students to be safe and secure during their school day," Lamb said. "No policy can prevent evil from occurring, but our hope is that these recommendations will mitigate and lessen the potential of future large scale school violence.”

President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman praised the work of the Commission.

“It is rare to see any policy proposal receive near-universal support at the state Capitol," said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. "I think it’s a testament to the seriousness with which the Commission went about finding common-sense ways to respond in the face of an agonizing national tragedy.

“I want to thank Speaker Shannon, Leader Burrage, and Leader Inman for their dedication to making the Commission recommendations successful. But most importantly, I want to thank the members of the Commission for their service, their time, and their expertise. Lt. Governor Lamb deserves our appreciation for his leadership of the Commission, and I believe I echo the thoughts of the Commission members when I say his sound judgment was essential to the formulation and passage of today’s legislation.

The measures now move to the governor’s desk for final consideration.

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