Fatal school shootings, including one four months ago at Birmingham’s Huffman High School, has put school safety at top of mind for educators. Tuesday at the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, a panel including superintendents, a teachers union official and others discussed how best to address active shooter situations.
There was little support among panelists for arming teachers or administrators. However, several spoke favorably of increasing the number of school resource officers or SROs. These are trained law enforcement officers tasked with keeping a school building safe. Hiring more SROs can be tough in poor, rural schools, which might also be farthest away from law enforcement.
Hoover Superintendent Kathy Murphy, formerly head of Monroe County Schools, said police would have had to travel 45 minutes to one school.
“I am troubled about those very isolated schools, such as the little school in Packard’s Bend, and what would they do?” she asked.
Earlier this year, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced a voluntary program to arm administrators at schools without SROs. Participating administrators would undergo training and be certified by the state. They would also keep the firearm in a locked safe.
The National Rifle Association often draws criticism when school shootings occur, but former NRA President Jim Porter said the group will consult with schools to develop security plans.
“These security programs are fashioned and tailored to the need of the requesting body whether it be a school or a school system,” Porter said.
Porter said there are NRA grants available to improve school safety. He said no schools in Alabama have applied.