Alabama superintendent addresses school safety after Texas school massacre
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The elementary school massacre in Texas is top-of-mind for school officials in Alabama, including state Superintendent Eric Mackey.
The Associated Press reports an 18-year-old gunman opened fire Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two adults. The killer barricaded himself inside a single classroom and “began shooting anyone that was in his way,” authorities said Wednesday
The attack was the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, according to the AP.
Mackey said communication is key in situations like this - the state has been working to improve school safety to respond.
“The other thing I would say is that we need to make sure we are engaged in safety protocols. After the 2018 tragedy in Parkland, Florida, Gov. Ivey convened a safe task force,” Mackey said. “She made me the chair as state superintendent. We worked with [the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency] and our other partners here to make sure we have a really good plan in place. We had 10 proposals. Almost all of those proposals were initiated and funded by the legislature – including mental health counselors.”
He said that the state has security measures in place to help prevent something like this. He added that they have not had somebody attempt anything like the massacre in an Alabama school.
“As new schools are constructed, we’ve made a lot of improvements to the entrances of schools, including cameras, including safety locks. Most schools now have two doorways you have to get in through one to get into a lobby and then get through a second secure doorway. Cameras are very beneficial and have helped us stop some issues, not one like we had in Texas,” Mackey said.
“Fortunately, we’ve not had anybody attempt something like that in Alabama school, but we have been able to catch some safety issues through the use of cameras. Access to campuses, even how people can drive and walk on the campuses, fencing, we’ve had a lot of fencing added to our campuses so different security protocols like that. And then the placement of [school resource officers]. We’ve had many, many local school districts that have worked with the sheriff’s office and police department to add SROs, or school resource officers, in their schools. We do not have a school resource officer in each school. That is a continuing conversation,” Mackey added.
Mackey said every school is required to have a school safety plan. The Alabama Department of Education has regional coordinators around the state and performs an annual safety training in each district.
“We have regional coordinators around the state, we do annual safety trainings. We’re not going to do that where it’s certainly advising superintendents and school boards. You got to make sure your community knows that you have a plan,” he said.
Mackey encourages parents to talk to their children and if they have any mental health issues get them treatment as soon as possible and alert school officials. In all situations like this - he urges if you see something suspicious to say something.
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