This week a commission led by Lt. Governor Todd Lamb issued five recommendations to improve school security. This commission was convened quickly after the Sandy Hook massacre in December. They acted just as quickly and generated ideas that have been roundly praised. Those recommendations urge the legislature 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.
The tip line would be similar to the School Safety Hotline that was dropped by the current administration at the SDE.
The first recommendation establishes a link between those who are security experts and schools. The second addresses cultural issues in our society that have been ignored for far too long. The other three are small steps to help schools deal with the unthinkable.
None of the recommendations include arming teachers, principals, custodians, or anyone else. That hasn’t stopped the House Public Safety Committee, which passed HB 1062 out of committee, allowing for school staff to complete training in a reserve officer course and carry a firearm to school.
Knowing that teachers are terribly overburdened already, the committee amended the bill before passing out of committee, reducing the training required in the course from six weeks to three. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mark Mcullough (R-Sapulpa), called the measure “a compromise bill trying to fill a gap where there’s a need right now” and said that it has nothing to do with the lieutenant governor’s commission’s work.
While safety and security needs exist, the gaps we should fill do not include a shortage of under-trained school staff wielding guns. On the other hand, Lamb’s commission – which included representatives from the education, law enforcement, and mental health professions – has put forth a blueprint the legislature should follow to develop legislation that will protect Oklahoma’s children.