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Attorney general provides best safety practices at schools

By Gary Lloyd

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has compiled a set of best practices for safe schools, which he this week shared with school officials throughout Alabama. This list resulted from the Alabama Safe Schools Initiative, which Strange re-instituted last year with a special emphasis on the use of technology in school safety.

The information was sent electronically to all public school principals and superintendents and to the Alabama Independent School Association.

Each school that submitted an application in 2013 was reviewed by a panel of judges with representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, the Alabama State Department of Education, the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, the Alabama Department of Public Safety, the Alabama Department of Insurance and the Alabama Association of School Resource Officers.

Based upon the judges’ findings, the Attorney General’s Office devised a set of suggestions called the 2013 Safe Schools Initiative Best Practices. Some of the suggested practices require funding, while others are just a simple, common sense approach to safety.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange
photo courtesy of the Office of the Attorney General

“Keeping our children safe in their schools is one of the most important things we can do for Alabama’s families and for our state’s future,” Strange said. “From the very best school safety programs, we gathered the most valuable and effective practices to share with all our schools. No matter what systems for safety a school may use, our common goal is to take the guesswork out of providing a safe environment and work with parents, teachers and local law enforcement to provide the safest schools possible.”

Strange highlighted the following as Best Practices:

The Quick Access Program was created by the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center to help schools keep track of visitors and alert school administrators to potential threats. Using the visitor’s driver’s license, the school has access to immediate information about whether the person is a sex offender, if there are child custody restrictions, and other concerns.

The Virtual Alabama School Safety System is an online system provided by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, making school safety plans, emergency contacts, maps, evacuation routes and other material easily accessible for first responders, school officials, and others involved in implementing a safety plan. Approximately 1,200 K-12 public schools, seven K-12 private schools, seven community colleges and three universities currently participate in this program.

Panic buttons for all teachers and school staff let them instantly alert school officials and local authorities when an emergency occurs.

The School Connect Application used by Leeds High School operates on tablets, smart phones and personal computers to provide immediate communication between school administrators, teachers, school staff, parents and students during emergency situations.

Safety plan flip books may be placed in every classroom, providing a detailed protocol and points of contact for all foreseeable emergencies.

Safety bags of essential safety supplies may be provided to each classroom and teacher, with items such as two-way radios, safety plan flip books, first aid kits and flashlights.

Trussville City Schools was one of the first pilot school systems for the Virtual Alabama School Safety System that started two years ago, Superintendent Pattie Neill said.

“Barry Davis, our facilities coordinator, has been instrumental in getting our campuses and floor plans in a virtual capacity via satellite,” Neill said. “We do have that online system and it is amazing to see.”

Neill said the school system also has the safety plan flip book, which includes medical information and emergency contact information, in every school and clinic. The school system this year also installed new telephones in every classroom so that teachers have immediate access to the office.

“Our old phones were ‘soft phones’ contingent on software within the computer,” Neill said. “These phones were replaced because the classroom telephone was not available if the computer was down.”

Strange commended all schools that are committed to providing a safe learning environment for students.

“I urge all school leaders and local law enforcement officials to review these practices and implement the best safety plans possible,” he said.

Contact Gary Lloyd at news@trussvilletribune.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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