School security budgets should be priority, state commission told
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
1/23/13 at 7:48 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - In a time of mass school shootings, educators must integrate safety funding into their base budgets just like every other priority cost, a national expert told the Oklahoma Commission on School Security on Tuesday.
"Ultimately, school districts are going to have to incorporate school security into their operating budgets and not view it as a grant-funded luxury," said Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services.
Just as schools budget for counselors, custodians and cafeteria workers, districts must have serious conversations about how to pay for school-based police officers, if they want them, he said.
Trump presented several suggestions for how school districts could strengthen their security systems, including better training for educators and students, accountability programs to ensure schools are looking at their security needs, partnering with noneducators such as homeland security officials, and increasing the number of in-school police officers.
"These are the things that we can and should be doing," Trump said.
Between 2000 and 2010, more than 120 school violence plots were thwarted, and in many cases, in-house school security was the key to saving students' lives, he said.
After the meeting, two school superintendents on the commission said they appreciated the ideas that Trump and others brought to the panel, but they said that if the state wants to increase security in ways that will increase school costs, it will have to find funding to pay for the changes.
"We very much want to have the safest secure environment for our students," Bartlesville Superintendent Gary Quinn said. "However, ... with budgets already being stretched and us trying to do the best over time to make sure our students are succeeding academically, it's going to be very difficult to get more money for these security items without assistance from another source."
Sapulpa Superintendent Kevin Burr said Trump's budget comments caught his attention.
"There's not a chance in the world that we should be responsible for this in our current budget status," he said. "We don't have enough money to cover the things we're doing now."
Although ensuring adequate security is critical for schools, adding an unfunded mandate will only stress an already overburdened system, Burr said.
More school security programs will require more funding to pay for them, he said.
Also addressing the commission at its first meeting Tuesday were state Mental Health Commissioner Terri White and state Homeland Security Director Kim Carter.
White said it will be important for the commission to address mental-health issues if it wants to address the school security threat effectively.
Most mentally ill people are far more likely to be a victim of violence than a perpetrator, but in some instances, mental illness can lead to tragedy, she said.
One in five schoolchildren have mental-health or substance-abuse problems, and those situations are recognizable and treatable, White said.
"Schools are the perfect places to be talking about these sorts of things," she said.
She presented a three-pronged program of mental-health training, school-based prevention and screening.
Carter addressed several misconceptions about school shootings and concluded that schools can save lives by preparing.
"A lot of the things we encourage people to do are low-cost or no-cost items," he said.
Improving school security sometimes is as simple as locking a door or making school patrons enter the building at a particular place, Carter said.
"This is all about policy and preparedness," he said.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, chairman of the commission, said the panel will likely meet four more times before putting together recommendations in time for legislative action this year. The commission's findings will likely address many issues, he said.
"No one thing and no one policy will prevent all evil from occurring," he said.
Because the commission's goal is prevention, its success may be difficult to quantify, Lamb said, adding, "How do you prove bad things did not happen?"
School incidents reported in 2011-12
Toy guns, cap guns, BB guns, pellet guns: 295
Handgun incidents: 23
Rifle/shotgun incidents: 6
Other firearms and explosives: 5
Multiple firearm incidents: 1
Others weapons: 378
Bomb threat: 38
Source: State Education Department
Original Print Headline: Security budget called vital
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
Tulsa Public Schools Campus Police Chief Gary Rudick listens with other committee members during a meeting of the Oklahoma Commission on School Security, which convened for the first time Tuesday afternoon. JIM BECKEL/The Oklahoman
Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb (left) speaks during the first meeting of the Oklahoma Commission on School Security in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. Looking on at right is state Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. SUE OGROCKI/Associated Press