By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
MOORE — David Slane wanted to make sure he was heard loud and clear. When he stood next to a chain linked fence Wednesday outside Plaza Towers Elementary School, the attorney from Moore had to speak up over the construction taking place to rebuild the school after the May 20, 2013, tornado.
“For five hours, I didn’t know whether my children were dead or alive in the Moore schools, at Brink and at Southmoore,” Slane said. “You couldn’t find out. No parent should ever send their child to school wondering if they are going to return.
“All of us felt it that day in Moore. We have to learn the lesson. We cannot forget those students have to be protected.”
Speaking to the contingent of media and residents on hand, Slane and his group, Take Shelter Oklahoma, announced their intention to ask voters to approve the issuance of a $500 million state bond to fund the construction of storm shelters in all state schools.
“Today, we want to come here and announce on behalf of the families of the children perished in this school behind us for the initiative for Take Shelter Oklahoma,” Slane said, “which is the announcement for the initiative for a bond issue to make certain that we have tornado shelters in every public school in the state of Oklahoma.”
Slane vowed to get the 160,000 petition signatures needed to place the measure on the November ballot.
Past attempts to take the issue to the people of Oklahoma for a vote have failed. This time, Slane and his group enlisted the likes of the Rev. Jesse Jackson to lend his name and presence to the issue.
“It is unacceptable that so many precious children are left unprotected from severe weather outbreaks in public schools,” said Jackson, who also reminded listeners that Joplin, Mo., is now building shelters after their tornado. “I am here today asking the people of the state of Oklahoma to do the same by signing the petition these parents are circulating so voters can decide on funding school storm shelters.
“Our character is determined by how we treat the most vulnerable. We must pass the character test.”
Slane said the petition is not a political issue. But one of safety for the more than half a millions students, teachers and faculty in the state.
“Today, we ask many people to come here and reflect on the fact that behind us many children died and were injured,” Slane said. “We want to remind you that each day in Oklahoma, over 506,000 students and faculty remain unprotected from tornadoes.
“After the one-year anniversary, we still have not adopted a comprehensive policy to provide tornado shelter in Oklahoma. We will be kicking off the $500 million bond issue this week.”
Seven school children died inside Plaza Towers Elementary during the May 20, 2013, tornado. Kyle Davis, 8, was among those students.
Kyle’s mother, Mikki Davis, gave an impassioned speech Wednesday on why she has relentlessly fought during the past year to bring this issue to the people of Oklahoma.
“It’s so important. I’m not giving up. I’m still fighting. Not only for my children that are still in school, but for every child, facility member, teacher, cafeteria worker, everybody in the school should be safe,” Davis said. “Those teachers can’t leave. They have to stay. There was tons of teachers throwing their bodies up on kids to save them. That shouldn’t have to happen. They should be down under ground, where they can be safe.
“It took 18 hours before I knew my son was a victim of the Plaza Towers tornado. It’s the longest 18 hours of your life. This is very dear to my heart. I’m not giving up until it’s on that ballot.”
According to Superintendent Robert Romines, no officials from the Moore School District were invited to participate in the press conference. Romines said he didn’t find out about the event until Wednesday morning.
Slane said he reached out to Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to seek input on the initiative.
“We went back to the drawing board,” Slane said. “We wanted to have this bond issue. We will let the legislature fund it how they think it’s appropriate to fund it so there won’t be problems. We simply want to get the signatures on the ballot in November so we can get some tornado shelters in the schools for these kids.
“I tried to reach out to the attorney general today to look at our petition before we even file it next week. If there are any problems, we can work it out and avoid a legal battle. Regardless, we’re going to move forward and get it on the ballot.”
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