MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — With Texas and the nation still reeling from the school shooting Tuesday, there’s been a renewed focus on mental health and safety measures in schools.
The President of the Alabama Association of School Resource Officers says they’re always prepared for the possibility of an active shooter, but prevention efforts aren’t discussed enough.
“For 170 plus days, that’s how many days kids our kids are in school. There is a weight that we bear,” President and Sgt. Pamela Revels said.
Revels is an SRO in Lee County. She says responding to tragedy is part of the job, but preventing it is the goal. She says interacting with students day-to-day can reveal when something might be wrong or when action needs to be taken.
“I have to walk my hallways and engage with my young people with a great attitude, a mentorship attitude. At the same time, in the back of my mind I have that understanding that somebody at any time can come in and hurt my young people and like I like to say, my babies,” Revels said.
State leaders also say mental health is part of the equation. In 2010, the Alabama Department of Mental Health created a program providing at-risk kids with therapy in school.
More recently, the legislature put millions into funding mental health coordinators and other support services in schools.
In 2018, the state also created the Securing Alabama’s Facilities of Education, or SAFE, Council to recommend changes to improve safety. Those 10 recommendations include a focus on improving physical building security, threat assessment and planning efforts, among others.
State Superintendent Eric Mackey chairs that council. His office says all recommendations have been implemented to some degree, saying in a statement: “We will continue to monitor and update the recommendations as needed, as well as make any necessary adjustments to make sure the safety and well-being of our students and teachers are of paramount concern.”
In 2016, lawmakers also created a school safety task force. They’ve passed laws mandating lockdown drills, and provided more funding for school resource officers and video cameras in schools.