Valdosta Daily Times

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December 19, 2012

State offers to help Ga. schools after shootings

ATLANTA — Georgia state education officials are offering to review safety plans and emergency response guidelines at schools in the state following the deadly shootings at a Connecticut elementary school.

In an email Monday to school superintendents across Georgia, state Associate Superintendent Garry McGiboney said state officials can conduct on-site safety assessments for schools with help from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

Within a couple of hours of sending the email, McGiboney began getting feedback, and heard from one small Georgia system that wants state officials to visits its schools and review its safety measures.

State school officials have done 55 such assessments at Georgia schools during the past two years, McGiboney said.

“We go through every part of the school, we go into every classroom, we go on the roof,” he said. The review even includes the surrounding neighborhood, he said.

Safety issues requiring immediate attention are shared with school officials right away, and a detailed report is compiled later, he said.

McGiboney said the agency has no legal authority to force changes after such a review, “but it’s been our experience that they’re very diligent in following up on the recommendations.”

State officials are also sharing other resources with Georgia schools, including guidance on how to talk to students about tragedies.

Statewide, school systems are taking varying approaches to security since the Friday shootings in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children dead.

In Atlanta’s northeastern suburbs, police officers are being assigned to schools “to help prevent any type of copy cat or similar incident” after the Connecticut shooting, Gwinnett County police said.

The county school system has more than 100 schools, and Gwinnett County police say they’re working with the school system’s own police force to assign officers to every school. Police say the effort will last for the next several days.

In nearby Cherokee County, a heightened police presence is planned at every school throughout the week, and uniformed officers will be present as students arrive and depart the schools, Cherokee sheriff’s Lt. Jay Baker said.

In the nearby DeKalb County school system, all school administrators have been asked to review their “safe school” and emergency plans, system officials said.

In the Augusta area, the Richmond and Columbia County school systems are on higher alert this week, but neither system is adding or changing security as a result of the mass shooting, the Augusta Chronicle reported.


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