If you’ve got a child in Georgia schools, they could be required to take part in active shooter training, thanks to a new law.
Earlier this month, Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 147 into law. Also known as the Safe Schools Act, HB 147 was introduced by state Rep. Will Wade — one of Kemp’s House floor leaders — who said his ultimate goal was to improve safety. The law aims to modernize emergency response training statewide, which includes responding to armed intruders.
The law will also create a voluntary training program for teachers that will aid in their ability to identify “gang members,” a move that supporters say could help educators recognize potential threats inside the classroom, though opponents worry it could lead to racial profiling.
So, how would this new law affect you, your kids, and their teachers?
Here’s what we know so far.
HB147 is now a law. What does it do exactly?
Once the law goes into effect on July 1, Georgia public schools will be required to conduct at least one active shooter or intruder training for students, administrators, teachers, and other staff based on standards set by the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency. Each training must be completed by Oct. 1 of each year.
All public schools will also be required to submit an emergency response plan to the local agencies and GEMA/HS for approval. The plans should be created with input from community stakeholders, including students, parents, faculty, and local law enforcement, as well as fire and emergency services. The plan must be updated annually. Private schools will not be required to submit safety plans, but it will be suggested.
In addition, the bill states that public school teachers will have the option to complete a school safety and anti-gang training program created and approved by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. The bill also encourages Georgia colleges with teacher certification programs to include the program in coursework at the post-secondary level.
Does this only apply to public schools?
For the most part, yes.
Public schools on the elementary, middle, and high school levels will be required to participate in at least one armed-intruder training each year while providing an emergency response safety plan.
The law does not mention private schools, outside of suggesting participating in creating a safety plan.
What exactly is involved in school safety plans?
According to the law, all safety plans should follow the minimum strategy areas, which are:
- Training school administrators, teachers, and support staff on school violence prevention, school security, school threat assessment, and mental health awareness.
- Evaluating and refining school security measures.
- Updating and exercising school emergency preparedness plans.
- Strengthening partnerships with public safety officials.
- Creating enhanced crisis communications plans and social media strategies.
The plans should also address preparedness for natural disasters, radiological or hazardous accidents, acts of violence, and acts of terrorism.
Do other states have similar requirements?
Yes, states like Florida, South Carolina, Texas, and Missouri also have laws requiring school safety plans and active shooter training.
I’m a parent, and I’m not sure that I want my kids participating in active school shooter drills. What can I do?
According to the bill, school districts can allow students to opt out if parents elect to not have their child participate.
Based on current wording, school districts are not required to offer this option and, at their discretion, can host as many training sessions as they deem necessary each school year.
If provided, parents will need to submit their opt-out in writing to the school district.
How will parents be notified of upcoming drills?
The law does not address how or when school districts should communicate the changes to safety plans or upcoming drills. As of now, responsibility to adequately notify parents falls on the individual district.
Hold on, teachers have to ID gangs now? What’s up with that?
The answer is yes and no.
The anti-gang training will not be required, but teachers can earn endorsements through the Georgia Professional Standards Commission for taking part. In some instances, endorsements are required in order to be considered for certain education roles.
If a teacher elects to take the course, they will be considered certified in the area of expertise to identify gang activity in class and on campus.
The law does not go into detail on what the anti-gang training entails.