The Norman Transcript

January 10, 2013

School security reviews upcoming

By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Barely a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, a stunned national outcry for policy response is on the minds of Oklahoma lawmakers and school administrators as the 54th legislative session kicks off.

In spite of heated debate on the type of solution lawmakers should aim for, Norman’s representatives and educators are acting fast to ensure immediate and long-term safety in schools.

At a December Board of Education meeting, Norman Superintendent Joe Siano described a “two-pronged” approach to evaluating and potentially updating school security.

The long-term aspect was the addition of a safety/security subcommittee to the district’s facilities master planning committee.

The short-term aspect — an immediate review of school site’s procedures — is about begin.

“I expect the committee to meet within the next week,” Siano said Tuesday. “I don’t anticipate any immediate changes following the committee meetings. I see this more as a reinforcement of what’s already in place at our school sites.”

One concern Siano raised was careful review of Norman teachers’ training for emergency situations.

“Over the past year, we’ve had a fairly high turnover of approximately 10 percent, and with people coming and going over a period of time, it’s easy to lose track of who is practiced and fully up-to-date and who is new and not so prepared,” Siano said.

Formation of a safety committee also has taken place at the state level, with the House of Representatives announcing a School Safety Commission Wednesday.

“(The commission) is something I’m excited about,” said Rep. Scott Martin, R-Tulsa. “They’ll be looking at a broad spectrum of school safety and common-sense solutions, and Norman’s own county commissioner, Darry Stacy, will be a member of that commission.”

Both Martin and Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said multiple bills are being formed and finalized concerning school safety, reflecting a variety of different approaches.

“Rep. Mark McCullough stated he favors arming teachers, and I’m certainly not supportive of this. I think there are better solutions,” Virgin said.

“I haven’t seen much on it, but there is a proposal for a bond issue for common education which would enable the state department to distribute special funds to schools based on individual security needs,” Virgin said. “There is certainly a lot of talk about it and I hope that’s the sort of option we seek, rather than putting guns in schools.”

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