The Main Objective is to Save Lives

“Our research shows that just by forbidding a certain type gun from being sold is not going to fix the problem because they can use dynamite or anything.” — Gov. Kay Ivey.

Seriously? If that were said in jest, it was a poor attempt at humor given the lives lost and gravity of the situation. If it were said in a serious manner, then we have other problems with understanding the core issue of this continual tragedy on school campuses. I’m fine with starting discussions at a place of understanding that the second amendment exists and respecting law-abiding gun owners. However, what I’m not okay with is exaggerating a statement beyond believability to distort the argument in an attempt to dismiss any potentially legitimate concern that these weapons, or the ammunition they fire, should be restricted to save lives.

Let’s put away the poll-tested talking points and understand that the main objective of any discussion within this committee is to save the lives of teachers, staff, administrators, and students. Period. We can all agree on that, correct? But for the Governor to say that ‘everything is on the table’, and then for her to answer a legitimate question with a gross over-exaggerated (dynamite?) hypothetical means that this committee may unfortunately be nothing more than a shell to punt this question down the road, thereby allowing the Parkland kids to have their day in Washington and for the news cycle to move along in hopes of having their recommendations published quietly and shelved. Life in Alabama and elsewhere could then return to the normal worrying of parents dropping their children off at school and spouses exchanging kisses and hugs — not knowing if this is the day the teacher in the family will encounter violence in their workplace.

The time has come for us to solve this problem and not push it further down the road, knowing full well that every child that dies a preventable death at the cost of political inaction causes families unmentionable, permanent grief. It changes the course of lives in ways too difficult to describe. From a political perspective, I’m not presupposing how this commission that is formed will study the issue, nor am I thinking that the conclusions and recommendations they will offer will be insufficient. What I am saying is that we need to start these conversations from a point of factual information and reasoned discussion, not exaggerated answers. We cannot afford to poison the well before we start. Our kids, our loved ones, and our society depend on us getting this right.

Article: Governor Kay Ivey Announces Alabama School Safety Plans

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey created a council to study school safety and said it should consider all ideas on their merits, including arming school personnel, an idea Ivey previously had expressed skepticism about.

Ivey said she wanted the ideas on a fast track, asking for a report by April 30. She outlined what she called a four-pronged approach – securing schools, engagement and intervention with students who are identified as posing risks of violence, updating and standardizing emergency operation plans and formation of the council.

The governor endorsed one specific proposal, a Senate bill that would allow school systems to use money from an advancement and technology fund for security.

Local systems could use the money to hire school resource officers or for surveillance cameras, metal detectors of whatever they thought best fit their schools’ needs, the governor said.

Interim State Superintendent Ed Richardson also supported that idea. Richardson said there is about $41 million available in the advancement and technology fund.

“We have many isolated, poorly funded school systems that do not have the resources to be able to afford security measures,” Richardson said.

Richardson, who spoke at a press conference with the governor, said Ivey’s framework was a good approach to a complex problem.

“There’s not one plan that will fit everyone,” Richardson said. “This could happen as easily in one of our rural school systems as well as in urban.”

Ivey’s announcement comes almost three weeks after the mass shooting that claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

None of the Alabama legislation has moved close to becoming law.

Ivey signed an executive order today creating the Securing Alabama Facilities of Education (SAFE) Council. It will include the top state officials in law enforcement, education, mental health and information technology.

Ivey requested a report from the group by April 30.

“From arming school personnel, utilizing security teams or controlled access to buildings, all ideas should be considered,” Ivey said.

Asked about that today, she said she would wait on recommendations from the council before taking a position.

The governor was also asked whether she would support new firearms restrictions, which some legislators have proposed.

She did not give a definitive answer but expressed doubt about whether that would be effective.

“Our research shows us that just by forbidding a special type gun from being sold is not going to fix the problem because they can use dynamite or anything,” Ivey said. “Those particular kind of specific proposals will be brought to the SAFE Council and they will make a recommendation on it.”

Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, introduced the bill to allow use of the advancement and technology fund for school security. The fund was set up to receive a portion of education revenues when the revenues exceed the annual spending cap. The Legislature specifies how the money can be used. Pittman’s bill would add security measures to the allowed uses.

Federal civil rights data showed that during the 2013-2014 school year, 33 Alabama school districts did not have any law enforcement officers in any of their schools.

Thirty-nine districts had a sworn officer assigned to every school, while 61 districts had an officer in one or more but not all of their schools.

Ivey called one part of her plan, “we know our kids.”

Schools will be required to develop a plan for identifying students who are potentially violent. That would involve collaboration with law enforcement and mental health professionals, the governor said.

“Parents, teachers and administrators know our students better than anyone else, and they’re in the best position to identify potential problems and to address those,” Ivey said. “If you see something, say something.”

Ivey asked the Department of Education to standardize emergency operations plans and to require schools to train students and staff in emergency response.

“How a school responds to a crisis situation shouldn’t just be in writing,” Ivey said. “It should become part of the school’s regular, routine operations.”

Richardson echoed the need for upgrading emergency operations plans and the need for regular drills to expose gaps in those plans.

AL.com’s Trisha Powell Crain contributed to this report.