Less than half of Louisiana schools have campus security officers
About 25% didn’t conduct active shooter drills last year
Fewer than half of Louisiana’s schools have an armed police officer on campus, according to the state Department of Education. (Getty Images)
Education officials told state lawmakers Tuesday that fewer than half of Louisiana’s schools have an armed police officer on campus.
Louisiana Department of Education administrators revealed the statistic during a meeting of the House Special Committee on School Safety. The department conducted a recent school safety survey, which showed 47% of 1,300 public schools statewide employ at least one school resource officer.
“That’s kind of startling when you look at all of the schools throughout the state of Louisiana,” Rep. Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer, said.
Assistant Education Superintendent Ernise Singleton told lawmakers she expects the number to increase as the state receives more federal grant money.
School resource officers are often parish sheriff’s deputies or local police officers who provide on-campus security and serve as a first line of defense against intruders. During the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, no resources officers were on campus when the gunman first arrived. The police department in charge of security at Uvalde schools had only six officers responsible for the district’s eight schools, according to the Washington Post.
We have to harden our perimeters. Our schools cannot be soft targets.
– Cade Brumley, Louisiana education superintendent
However, research indicates armed security officers have not resulted in a decrease in on-campus shootings. The University of Albany and RAND Corp. teamed for a study that looked at data from 2014 to 2018. It showed while resource officers prevented some incidents at schools, they did not reduce the number of shootings or gun-related incidents on campus.
Education Superintendent Cade Brumley told lawmakers there are four things he believes are “most important” in making Louisiana’s schools safe.
The first, he said, is that all schools must create a culture where students feel comfortable reporting suspicious threats or activity to authorities. “We have to have a speak-up culture,” Brumley said.
The second concerns standardizing security infrastructure across schools with features such as single points of entry, access control, double doors, and functioning lock systems. Louisiana is receiving $20 million from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that Brumley said he hopes to use for this purpose
“We have to harden our perimeters,” Brumley said. “Our schools cannot be soft targets.”
Rep. Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer, said medics or firefighters could face difficulty getting into a school through a single entryway crowded with students trying to evacuate.
Brumley’s third goal is to expand mental health services for students. He said the department is using federal grants to add more social workers and counselors to schools.
Lastly, Brumley said, schools need more coordinated emergency training with local law enforcement, mental health staff and other first responders. About a quarter of schools statewide did not conduct active shooter drills last year, according to the DOE survey.
One security feature schools can implement free of charge is the Rave Panic Button mobile app, which can alert 911 of an active shooter or other emergency with the push of a button. The system is available to any school, public or private, through the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP). The office uses federal grant money to install the system at Louisiana schools.
GOHSEP Director Casey Tingle told lawmakers his office has already implemented the system at 674 schools across the state. An additional 455 schools are in the process of implementing it, while about 100 schools have opted out of the program for various reasons.
Most of the schools that have opted out already have a similar system in place, Tingle said.
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