The Edmond Sun

March 5, 2013

School security panel releases recommendations

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

OKLA. CITY — EDITOR’S NOTE: Look for more details about the recommendations in our March 9 Weekender edition. They will include Edmond Public Schools’ reaction and measures already in place.

A public school security commission released five legislative recommendations that will now be considered by the Legislature.

The 22-member Oklahoma Commission on School Security, formed after a mass shooting tragedy at a Connecticut elementary school in December, was headed by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond.

Lamb announced the recommendations a day after four Edmond Public School sites were placed on various states of heightened security in response to a threat made against employees of a nearby church.

Members of the commission represented Oklahoma’s education sector, law enforcement, the faith community and mental health community. Other members added expertise in the areas of architecture and medical first responders.

Members included Edmond Police Capt. Tim Dorsey, who is in charge of a school resource officer program with Edmond Public Schools, and Oklahoma Christian School Headmaster Roger Webb, who is a former president of the University of Central Oklahoma and a former commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

Lamb thanked the members for volunteering their time to what was believed to be the first effort of its type in the nation. Lamb said the work they have done may serve as a model for other states.

“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 happening, but our hope is that these recommendations will mitigate and lessen the potential of future large-scale school violence.”

Commission members urged lawmakers to:

• Create an Oklahoma School Security Institute that would operate under the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security and be a center of best practices and resources;

• Establish a pilot mental health first aid training program, which should be voluntary and incorporate the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and school district superintendents;

• Amend and change state law to require school intruder safety drills along with fire and tornado drills;

• Require the reporting of firearms to local law enforcement; and

• Establish a school security tip line for parents, teachers, students and administrators that is available to call in suspicious activity. A tip line maintained by the State Department of Education was discontinued due to cost and lack of use, Lamb said.

Lamb said several shell bills, which potentially could be a vehicle for the recommendations, were passed by the Senate last week. Reaction to the ideas by lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin has been positive, he said.

Fallin said the tragedy in Connecticut was an unwelcome reminder that leaders must address the mental health needs in Oklahoma. It also reminded leaders of the need to ensure schools are well-prepared for emergency situations, Fallin said.

“The Commission on School Security has done a good job at addressing those issues and we expect to be able to implement many of its proposals,” said Fallin, who thanked Lamb and the members for their service.

Webb, who also served on the higher education security task force a few years ago, said members of the commission came from a wide variety of fields, which contributed to the substance of the report.

“This is an excellent report,” Webb said. “I think it will be well accepted by the education community, the law enforcement community and will be welcomed by parents across the state.”

Webb echoed Lamb’s words regarding providing and maintaining a safe learning environment for children in the state as being the highest priority. The report will be a positive step toward that, Webb said.

Dorsey said the report is a beginning, and the commission made some significant progress. Members have forwarded recommendations they believe will make schools safer, Dorsey said.

“We worked hard to do that in a short period of time,” he said of the commission’s five-week lifespan. “I think we were successful in getting that done.”

Dorsey said having an Oklahoma School Security Institute will consolidate things so schools across the state or law enforcement will have a central point to contact when they’re wanting ideas or suggestions. That will be an excellent resource for all parties, he said. | 341-2121, ext. 108