Lawmakers, educators discuss school safety

Who should carry a gun onto a school campus? This upcoming legislative session at least one state representative plans to introduce a bill to allow trained educators to have a weapon in the school. But not everyone believes that's the way to best protect our children.

During a meeting Wednesday at the State House, lawmakers, law enforcement officials and educators gathered to discuss ways to keep students safe.

State school superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice says already each public school is required to have a safety plan, which can be accessed by first responders.

"That is the strength of it. It is based on a local level for local needs," Dr. Bice.

Perhaps the most heated part of the discussion: one proposed solution to increase school safety. Republican state representative Kerry Rich of Albertville plans to introduce legislation that would allow schools to arm certain administrators and teachers.

"I would rather my granddaughter be in a school where I knew that a trustworthy person had a weapon available to them to confront one of these people," Rich.

Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith, president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, disagrees.

"If I am in the middle of something, I can't stop and check out someone walking across school property. If we are going to train these people to do that then I

say put a police officer there," Smith.

One Shelby County teacher, Marla Vaughn, takes it a step further.

"Having bulletproof glass in the window that leads to the classroom , gated school campuses, conducting background checks on all volunteers," Vaughn.

But armed teachers or not, all speakers agree law enforcement is only part of the picture. They say mental health agencies and collaboration must play a larger role.

"The copycat killers we see today...we need to have early intervention a man in a uniform with a gun is a heck of a deterrent but we need to treat these people," says Jimmy Harp, Etowah County District Attorney.

"Give us the opportunity to know without the question marks about who can be armed at a school. Give us some ideas as to where we stand, and what you want us to do," Ted Sexton, Tuscaloosa County Sheriff.

The Alabama Legislature will begin its new session Feb. 5.