A bill aimed at making Oklahoma’s more than 2,000 school sites safer – including public and private schools and CareerTechs – was signed into law on Tuesday.
Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 100, which will require each school district to undergo a risk and vulnerability assessment by the Oklahoma School Security Institute.
The new law goes into effect July 1.
Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, is a retired educator who worked to ensure all districts meet certain safety standards to better protect students and staff.
Pemberton chaired the bipartisan School Safety Working Group, and Senate Bill 100 was one of their top recommendations.
“After visiting with school administrators and visiting numerous school sites, it became alarmingly apparent that we needed to create a uniform system of safety standards and protocols to ensure all our students and staff are fully protected during an emergency,” Pemberton said. “It shouldn’t matter if it’s a rural or urban, poor or affluent district, all schools should be safe havens where learning is the focus and students can thrive.”
Estimated costs to conduct the assessments will be approximately $1.4 million per year, according to the agency. With the funding, the State Department of Education will allow the OSSI to hire 10 additional staffers to conduct all the risk assessments in the allotted time period.
School districts would be exempt if they have already been assessed in the past two years. For all other school districts, re-assessments would be conducted every five years.
Stillwater Public Schools Superintendent Uwe Gordon said the school resource officers conduct a risk assessment every year.
“This year’s funding is for security,” Gordon said. “We will use it for updating security devices like cameras, intercoms and entry devices.”
The new law added requirements such as “de-escalation and behavioral threat assessment and management training to employees.”
These added measures will help each site – because the state can’t afford to have a school resource officer at every school – and there aren’t enough police officers across the state, Gordon said.
Other recommended items that school sites should update or install include cameras, gates, lighting, locks, doors, windows, security geofencing and ballistic storm shelters.
“Security is the last thing children and teachers should ever have to worry about while they are involved in the process of learning,” said principal House author Rep. Dick Lowe, R-Amber.
Gov. Stitt also signed HB 2903, which creates a three-year school safety pilot program that will give districts approximately $96,000 to hire a school resource officer or make necessary security upgrades. In addition, Gov. Stitt signed HB 2904, which will provide a one-time appropriation of $150 million to fund the safety program.