Governor Kemp Addresses Georgia School Safety
Governor Brian P. Kemp addressed school safety last Thursday in Columbus at a conference hosted by the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA) in partnership with the Georgia Department of Education.
The session was attended by: local and state public safety personnel; school resource officers (SROs), other law enforcement officers; emergency management personnel; teachers; school administration officials; and school counselors. Having started in 2009, the three-day event is the state’s premier and longestrunning conference for school safety. “I don’t have to remind this group of just how important this conference and others like it are. We were all reminded of it just a month ago by the heartbreaking events in Uvalde, Texas.
“On that painful day, what every single one of us thinks about on a regular basis with dread, what we pray will never happen in one of our schools, the evil that we work every single day to prevent, struck that small-town community.” He added, “As I shared a few weeks ago with a group of school resource officers, we know that where these issues are most directly addressed and felt is not on the state level, but on the ground in our communities, in our classrooms, and in our very own homes.” Kemp said that is why he has held five education roundtables in the first half of this year alone, two devoted specifically to the issue of school safety. He plans to continue this model and host additional discussions to help inform policy efforts regarding school safety, with the next roundtable scheduled for July.
“As I’ve always said, and as our own state Constitution says, protecting our citizens is the paramount duty of government. No matter which zip code our students and teachers are in, their safety is of the utmost importance,” the Governor said, noting, “We’re working to make sure that when Georgia’s roughly 1.7 million students return to the classroom in the Fall, that every school they enter is a truly safe and secure place for growth and learning.”
Major School Safety Updates In addition to encouraging greater partnership among all the stakeholders represented, Kemp also announced the following major updates to reinforce school security in Georgia: e Criminal Jus tice Coordinating Council (CJCC) — an executive branch agency — voted last Friday to award $2.6 million from the State Law Enforcement Training Grant Program to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) to enhance its SRO training. These funds will increase instructor capacity and further grow the number of courses available for local SROs.
e Council will award over $182,000 in federal grant funds to purchase 210 tactical kits for SROs as part of the Single Officer Response to Active Threat training.
e Council will allo cate $1 million in Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds to support statewide school safety efforts. These dollars can be spent on regional school safety trainings and safety operation quick reference guides to provide for professional development of SRO instructors, course expansions, and more.
e Council will re lease a competitive grant opportunity next month to award $4.5 million in Law Enforcement Training Grant Funds to local and state law enforcement agencies. These funds will be spent on training for school safety, use-of-force and de-escalation training, and mental health resource needs.
e Council is part nering with GEMA, GPSTC, and the Georgia Department of Education in two federal grant applications requesting $3 million to provide additional training for school staff and SROs and to improve school climate. Applications for these grants are expected to go live in the next several weeks, at which point they will be posted on the Current Grant Opportunities section of the CJCC website.
Prior Direct Actions
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.
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 2019, in coordina tion with GEMA and the state Department of Education, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council received a million-dollar, three-year grant to enhance Georgia’s School Safety Center. That funding went to the central school safety website which provides resources for training, school safety plan templates and guides, improving the school threat assessments and safety template, and increasing access to training in de-escalation and detecting danger, bullying and cyberbullying, suicide and mental health awareness, and supporting high-risk students.
During the conference GEMA, in conjunction with the Department of Education and the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, unveiled the updated School Safety Plan template. All schools are required to have a safety plan in place in the event of violence like what occurred in Uvalde. The Georgia Public Safety Training Center will train over 300 school resource officers this year alone and is also reviewing the basic SRO curriculum, in light of the events in Uvalde, to see if and how they need to be updated. The Training Center will also provide an additional six Active Shooter classes for SROs this year, in partnership with the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (or ALERRT). The Governor encouraged local school systems to take advantage of the state’s Site Threat Access and Response Audit resource that identifies vulnerabilities at campus facilities and improves safety.
The Intel Unit of the Georgia Homeland Security Division can also assist schools and school systems with threats and ensuring public safety throughout the state.