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Archive for Sunday, February 3, 2013

State re-examining school safety regulations

February 3, 2013

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— In the wake of December’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Kansas legislators are re-evaluating state mandated emergency preparedness requirements for public schools.

Last week, the Kansas House committee on Veterans, Military and Homeland Security received a presentation from Bob Hull, director of the Kansas Center for Safe and Prepared Schools, or KC-SPS, regarding current state regulation of school emergency preparedness.

“Kansas is a fairly unregulated state when it comes to statutes requiring emergency drills in schools,” Hull said.

Rep. Melanie Meier, D-Leavenworth, said Kansas is one of many states re-examining school safety regulations in response to the Sandy Hook shooting that left 27 dead at the school.

Currently, the state requires schools to conduct fire drills, severe weather drills and bus evacuations. Last week, Rep. Marco Goico, R-Wichita, who is chairman of the Veterans, Military and Homeland Security committee, formed a subcommittee to develop recommendations for a bill to update emergency preparedness requirements for schools. The subcommittee will include school district representatives and Hull.

The KC-SPS, a branch of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, encourages schools throughout the state to practice lockdown drills, off-site evacuation and reunification, and shelter-in-place drills for incidents of localized emergencies such as chemical spills or explosions. But these drills are not required, and their frequency is not mandated by the state. To ensure preparedness, the committee is looking to make state law more robust.

“We’re not doing all that we could to ensure school kids’ safety,” Meier said.

Ron May, safety director of Lawrence schools, said key faculty from Lawrence, Eudora and Baldwin City school districts attended a weeklong KC-SPS training event in November. The training prompted the Lawrence school district to begin drafting a districtwide emergency operations plan. Currently, the district mandates only those drills required by state law, though May said most buildings also perform the drills suggested by KC-SPS. Lawrence school district principals are also required to revamp crisis response plans annually.

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