State and Local Leaders Discuss Ways to Prevent School Violence

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By Jessica Gertler

Alabama lawmakers hold a school security hearing to talk about ways to prevent school violence like the recent shooting massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The images are still shocking a month later. Twenty students and six adults shot and killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

A horrific scene that's sparked Alabama lawmakers to take action. On Wednesday, ideas were thrown on the table on how to amp security.

The most talked about: arming a teacher or faculty member in every school with a gun. Phenix City Superintendent Larry DiChiara says he supports the measure if the personnel receive the proper training.

"Today in our schools when someone pulls a gun and draws on us, us school administrators and teachers don't have a gun," he says. "All we have is a pencil and ruler to defend ourselves with."

But Marla Vaughn who is a first grade teacher says giving educators a firearm is not the answer. She says it poses additional security threats.

"It is worth considering alternate weapons like pepper spray and tazers. Yet those also raise another security question, and they require training," she says.

State Superintendent Tommy Bice says every school has a security plan in place, and some schools have security officers.

But many lawmakers want every school to have an officer patrolling campus.  An expensive measure, but Senator Dick Brewbaker of Montgomery says it makes sense.

"I do not think handing firearms to people who are not trained to the same extent as a police officer is a good idea," he says.

Another idea Brewbaker plans on backing: adding or training personnel at every school to identify those students with mental health issues, and know how to get those students help.

Senator Vivian Figures of Mobile brings up a similar idea. She wants to make sure colleges offer classes to future teachers on mental health.

"We can get these children the immediate help that they need," she says.

Department of Homeland Security officials say an active shooter can happen anywhere.That's why they want all law enforcement agents in the state to go through active shooter training again. They say this can be done through grant money.

Alabama's Criminal Justice Information Center has released information showing that two percent of all reported violent offenses last year in Alabama happened in schools.



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