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Schools wait for security plan’s OK

Gainesville system is 1 of 32 in state without rules set

POSTED: December 20, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Gainesville is among 32 school districts statewide that are not in compliance with a Georgia law requiring school systems to get state approval of security plans.

Although the law has been on the books for nearly a decade, the Gainesville system is among 20 percent of those in the state that have not complied with the law, according to an Associated Press review of state data.

Additionally, the city system is one of 16 districts across the state that have never turned their security plans in to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

State officials have little power to enforce the law because the statute includes no penalties for districts that don’t seek approval. To get GEMA’s approval, each school must create a security plan addressing a variety of potential threats, including a tornado or a gunman on campus.

Elfreda Lakey, assistant superintendent of operations, policies and human resources for Gainesville schools, said the system submitted a security plan to GEMA in November and is awaiting its approval.

"We did not have a safety plan at first," Lakey said. "When we were informed of that this year, I got busy."

Lakey said she formed a committee to devise a safety plan for the school system that addressed how it would respond to emergency situations.

She said the committee then turned its safety plan draft over to William Wright, the deputy director of Hall County Emergency Management. Lakey said that after Wright suggested improvements to the plan that were made by the safety committee in early November, Wright said he would submit the plan to the state on the system’s behalf.

"(Wright) already approved it and it has to be approved by him, and then the state," Lakey said.

Lakey said once GEMA approves the safety plan, the Gainesville City Board of Education will review it for approval and implementation.

The impetus behind the state law was that GEMA can better help districts during emergencies if the agency knows the schools’ protocol in advance. Districts that undergo such emergencies can better fend off potential lawsuits filed by parents if they have a state-approved security plan in place.

Most of the districts that don’t have approved security blueprints are small, with fewer than 5,000 students. Other school systems who have yet to comply with the law blamed system budget and personnel constraints for their sluggish compliance.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.



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