Panel discusses school safety ideas
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
2/13/13 at 8:19 AM
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OKLAHOMA CITY - Ideas being proposed to the Oklahoma Commission on School Security include making it easier for judges to force disturbed people to receive psychiatric treatment and making it easier for students to report their safety concerns to authorities.
The commission - formed in the wake of December's Newtown, Conn., massacre that left 26 people dead at an elementary school - is scheduled to present a final platform of school security proposals to the Legislature next month.
Thirty-nine initial ideas from commission members were distributed at Tuesday's meeting and discussed in small groups.
Several of the ideas were repeated by several commission members, including forcing school districts to revisit and revise their emergency response plans.
Several of the ideas suggested an armed presence on school campuses.
"Create a statewide funding mechanism dedicated to ... hire and place a law enforcement officer in every building," one suggestion said.
Another suggested assigning uniformed Oklahoma National Guard personnel to maintain security in school districts and arming those soldiers if they are state-certified.
But another commission member said guns won't make schools any safer.
"Schools should not become armed with guards and faculty who are designated to carry guns," the idea said. "Children are far safer in school than in any other place - that may include their home."
Instead, the commission member suggested promoting and mandating systematic training of school personnel in safe school preparation.
One "long term" suggestion called for physical changes to schools: Locks on all classroom doors to slow down or stop intruders and bullet-proof glass in school entrance vestibules.
Kendra's Law - New York legislation that makes is easier for judges to require some people to regularly undergo psychiatric treatment - was suggested by one commissioner.
Another called for reinstating a toll-free hotline for students to report threats, bullying and other school-safety issues. A little over a year ago, the state Department of Education let a contract expire with a company that had provided a hotline for years.
Ashley Kehl, a spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, said the 39 ideas were only preliminary thoughts of commission members and haven't been debated or approved. Lamb is the commission's chairman.
After hearing more than an hour of expert testimony Tuesday, the commission broke into smaller groups to discuss ideas. The commission is expected to consider its final set of proposals March 5.
David Cid, executive director of the Oklahoma City-based Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, told the commission that a study of 279 multiple-death "active shooter" cases in the United States and Canada found that about a quarter occurred at schools and a quarter occurred at commercial locations.
Cid also described the 2004 Chechen terrorist attack on a school in Beslan, Russia, that left 178 people dead, mostly children.
"Could it happen here? Sure, it could. Is it likely to happen? No, but we should consider it, we should think about it," Cid said.
The Ku Klux Klan, militias, sovereign citizens, al-Qaida or eco-terrorists all pose a potential terrorist threat within the nation, he said.
"Separating the violent from the merely angry is the real challenge," he said.
The nation can't harden its targets sufficiently to make it safe because protecting one location only transfers the threat elsewhere, he said.
"I cannot stress this enough. Intelligence is the way to prevent terrorism," he said. "There is no other answer."
Original Print Headline: Panel mulls school safety ideas
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Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb