The Norman Transcript

Opinion

March 6, 2013

School safety task force focuses on mental health

NORMAN — The arrest of a 12-year-old Moore public school student Monday on a felony firearms possession complaint shocked many parents. The sixth-grader allegedly brought a loaded .45-caliber handgun to school and showed it to classmates in a school restroom.

The bright spot in the story is that one of the students who saw the gun made the right choice to quickly alert a school staff member. Staff members then took appropriate action and it all ended without any injuries.

Although that incident ended well, many such incidents have tragic consequences. The task force studying school security finished their recommendations this week, and none of their ideas would have stopped Monday’s incident at Sky Ranch Elementary.

The recommendations released Tuesday include creating a $500,000 Oklahoma School Security Institute, a mental health first-aid pilot training program, mandatory safety drills at public schools and a school security tip line.

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, a former Secret Service agent, chaired the task force, which included two county residents. The six, three-person mental health first-aid teams would be placed strategically around the state. They would help find potentially violent mental health patients who have fallen out of treatment and try to get them re-engaged.

The panel’s recommendations calls for more training for school workers in how to recognize potentially troubled students early on and how to respond to crisis events before law enforcement arrives.

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