Governor Brian P. Kemp today provided an update on school safety measures and resources in the State of Georgia.
“As the parents of three daughters – including one who is a first-grade teacher – Marty and I join all Georgians in mourning yesterday’s senseless targeting of school children in Texas,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “Focusing on school safety and improving Georgia’s mental health system are two issues that we tackled immediately upon taking office in 2019. We want to reassure Georgia families today that we have worked closely with the General Assembly and state agencies to ensure our students and educators have secure learning environments. We will continue to do all we can to protect Georgians – and especially our state’s most treasured asset, our children.”
Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency – School Safety: The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency leads school safety training efforts in Georgia in partnership with other key agencies – like the Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC), and the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE). A comprehensive overview of these efforts can be found here and some are listed below.
▪ There are currently 8 Homeland Security Coordinators (HSCs) around the state whose primary function is to assist schools and local law enforcement with school safety. These HSCs are all sworn law enforcement officers.
▪ GEMA/HS is hosting the 2022 Georgia School Safety and Homeland Security Conference June 21st – 23rd in Columbus, Georgia to provide training to Georgia law enforcement and education personnel from subject matter experts such as Assistant Chief Steven Driscoll of the United States Secret Service’ National Threat Assessment Center and Dr. Frank Straub from the National Police Foundation’s Center for Mass Violence Response Studies. Currently over 450 local leaders are registered representing 119 different counties. More information on the conference can be found at GASchoolSafety.com.
▪ Per OCGA 20-2-1185 “every public school shall prepare a safety plan to help curb growing incidence of violence in schools.” GEMA/HS is currently redeveloping the Georgia School Safety Plan template in conjunction with Georgia Department of Education and the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The newly-revised School Safety Plan Guide and Template is slated to be unveiled at the 2022 Georgia School Safety and Homeland Security Conference in Columbus, GA on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022.
▪ GEMA/HS developed the Site Threat Access and Response Audit (STAR Audit) for a school system to identify vulnerabilities at their facilities and improve their level of safety. The STAR Audit is designed to give requesting entities a fair and unbiased evaluation of physical security measures and threat response protocols.
▪ Over 120 Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) trainings have been conducted to 400+ personnel during Governor Kemp’s administration. These specialized trainings identify a true active shooter, examine the history of active shooter incidents, and discuss the possible responses to various active shooter situations. We will also explore pro-active steps that can be taken to possibly reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring.
▪ GEMA/HS’s Homeland Security Division Intel Unit assists schools and school systems with threats and ensuring public safety throughout the state.
▪ HSC’s have conducted 540 School Safety Site Assessments during Governor Kemp’s administration. These are multi-discipline evaluations of school sites to gauge existing or potential hazards, conditions, or practices that are present. The site assessment takes an all-hazard approach and is based on CPTED principles, best practices, and local response protocols.
▪ In conjunction with OCGA 20-2-1185, HSCs have provided additional feedback and guidance on over 130 school safety plans during Governor Kemp’s Administration.
▪ GEMA/HS, in conjunction with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the Georgia Department of Education’s $999,554 FY19 STOP School Violence Grant Program award from the US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Programs, is in the process of becoming the state’s Subject Matter Experts in Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management (BTAM.) GEMA/HS intends to leverage their knowledge as BTAM SMEs to create regional Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams (BTAT) through the state of Georgia. These BTATs will be led by the regional HSC and will respond to threats or concerning behavior that may be considered a pathway to violence. The BTATs will provide assistance and guidance to local schools, systems, and communities in an effort to mitigate potential threats to life.
Governor Kemp and state personnel have also taken the following direct actions related to school safety.
▪ In 2019, Governor Kemp set aside $69 million for school security grants, ensuring every public school in Georgia received $30,000 to implement school security measures.
▪ Governor Kemp has consistently dedicated funds to the APEX program to focus on mental health in Georgia schools.
▪ In January of this year, Governor Kemp allotted $6 million in additional GEER funding for student mental health initiatives.
▪ The Georgia Public Safety Training Center will train over 300 School Resource Officers (SROs) in the field this year. They are currently reviewing basic SRO curriculum considering recent events in Uvalde, Texas. Any necessary protocol updates will be included in the next SRO class and will continue in the future.
▪ GPSTC will be offering an additional 6 Active Shooter classes for SROs in partnership with the ALERRT active shooter training model.
▪ In 2019, Governor Kemp signed House Bill 514 into law, creating the Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission. The Commission helped inform the Mental Health Parity Act that lawmakers passed and Governor Kemp signed into law this year. The Act includes robust reforms and resources to address mental health challenges in Georgia.
▪ In March of 2022, Governor Kemp hosted a round table discussion focused on school safety with state and local law enforcement, education leaders, and elected officials. He plans to continue this model and host additional discussions to help inform policy efforts regarding school safety.