The Fayette Citizen-News Page
Wednesday, June 30, 1999
New state laws on school violence effective July 1

A comprehensive new law, recommended by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to target school violence in Georgia, will go into effect July 1.

Senate Bill 74 will require every public school in the state to develop and implement a wide-ranging safety plan to address acts of violence, acts of terrorism, natural disasters, hazardous materials and radiological incidents.

“School violence has become a very real issue in Georgia, which is among the top ten states in the nation for violent death in the school setting,” said GEMA director Gary W. McConnell. “This new law will enable GEMA to continue its work with local school systems and public safety personnel to find ways to prevent these incidents, and be better prepared to respond to them effectively when they occur.”

“We appreciate Gov. Roy E. Barnes' leadership and the strong support of the General Assembly in addressing this crisis,” McConnell added.

McConnell said the emergency plans are to be drawn up based on input from teachers and school personnel, community leaders, local law enforcement, fire service and other public safety officials, and emergency management agencies, as well as students, and parents and guardians. Private schools are not required to have safety plans, but GEMA strongly encourages them to develop and implement plans at their discretion.

The new law also requires GEMA to develop a model safety plan as a guide for local schools, and to provide training and technical assistance to public school systems to develop these plans. It allows GEMA to perform the same service for private schools, at their request.

The training and technical assistance includes crisis response team development, site surveys and safety audits, crisis management planning, exercise design, safe school planning, emergency operations planning, search and seizure, bomb threat management and model school safety plans.

The legislation was sponsored by state Sen. Richard Marable of Rome and steered through the House of Representatives by Jeannette Jamieson of Toccoa. Barnes signed it into law in April.

To date, GEMA's Consequence Management Section has trained nearly 5,000 educators and public safety personnel in school safety planning. The training has been conducted both on an individual basis in communities around the state and through a series of seminars on emergency management in Georgia's schools, conducted at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center at Forsyth.

Senate Bill 51, which also will go into effect July 1, will set new training and certification standards for local emergency management directors or deputy directors hired after that date. They will be required to undergo initial training within six months after appointment, and ultimately become Certified Emergency Managers. They will also be required to undergo a minimum of 24 hours of continuing education per year to maintain certification.

Another measure, Senate Bill 170, proposed by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia and supported by GEMA, will correct a glitch in current law that had prevented the collection of emergency fund surcharge on cellular phone bills in Georgia, but with out-of-state codes. This was a problem in border counties, particularly in Northwest Georgia.

The law also creates a registry within GEMA, and cellular phone providers will have to register. This is intended to assist local 911 agencies in identifying the providers that will serve their communities.

A part of the governor's office, GEMA is the lead state agency for the coordination of state resources for disaster and emergency response. The agency also is responsible for the development of mitigation projects to reduce the impact of disasters, and for a variety of training initiatives for emergency managers and other public safety personnel.


What do you think of this story?
Click here to send a message to the editor. Click here to post an opinion on our Message Board, "The Citizen Forum"

Back to News Home Page | Back to the top of the page