Alabama Bill Would Require Law Enforcement to Participate in School Lockdown Drills

Under current law, law enforcement helps design emergency plans but doesn’t join the drill

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A state representative has filed a bill that would require schools to have regularly scheduled lockdown drills involving school resource officers and law enforcement.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, would require school districts to include school resource officers and law enforcement in lockdown drills and to designate the days of drills to be “school safety and awareness days.”

Under existing law, school boards are required to have a “comprehensive school emergency operations plan.” Law enforcement personnel help develop the plan but are not required to participate in drills.

Warren said that the legislation emerged after seeing the events last May at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, when 19 fourth-graders and two teachers were killed by a gunman. Responding law enforcement faced criticism for a lack of coordination and action.

“What happened in Texas was just totally disorganization,” she said. “Nobody knew who was in charge. Nobody knew how to do this. Nobody knew what to do there.”

Warren said she wants the bill to put everyone on the same page.

“It’s working out a plan between law enforcement and the school system,” Warren said. “So, nobody will be guessing who’s in charge and what we need to do.”

State Superintendent Eric Mackey, via communications director Michael Sibley, said he has not yet seen the legislation. Amanda Wasden, director of external affairs at the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, said Thursday the department did not have a comment on the bill.

“Student safety is paramount, and our members have flagged student and school safety as one of their top priorities for the coming legislative session,” said Ryan Hollingsworth, executive director of the School Superintendents of Alabama, in a statement. “SSA is currently reviewing all pre-filed bills and looks forward to conversations with sponsors and stakeholders.”

In the Alabama State Department of Education’s Manual of State Laws and Regulations, School Safety and Discipline, principals are required to instruct and train students for emergency drills and evacuations. The fire marshal requires at least one emergency drill each month. Emergency drills include but are not limited to safety, security, severe weather, fire and “code red drills.”

Code red drills can be issued “in the event of a perceived immediate threat to a school involving acts of violence, such as terrorism, a person possessing a firearm or a deadly weapon, or any other threat of violence.” Code red drills must be conducted within the first six weeks of the fall and spring semesters.

Warren said that these “school safety and awareness days” will be days for the drills.

“Everybody will be in sync with each other doing the drills, so we know how everything should pull off,” she said.

The 2023 legislative session starts next Tuesday.

Alabama Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alabama Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Brian Lyman for questions: info@alabamareflector.com. Follow Alabama Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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