Recent deadly school episodes of violence in Florida and Texas, committed by two individual public school students against their peers and school personnel, caused 27 deaths.
The shootings caused political reaction across the country, including Nebraska. A few Nebraska state senators have called for interim studies to examine school violence and seek ideas to improve school safety.
I recently examined recent legislation passed by the Legislature concerning school safety and I have reached the conclusion that the issue has been addressed adequately by the Nebraska Legislature.
If an interim Education Committee study were to be held, it would be more of an attempt to assure the public what is presently being done by school officials to address school safety.
In 2014, LB 923 was passed, including an amendment introduced by Sen. Rick Kolowski, to create the position of State School Security Director within the Nebraska Department of Education.
The Commissioner of Education, currently Matt Blomstedt, was directed to fill the position based on experience, knowledge and skills in the field of school security. Presently, a very well qualified person, Jolene Palmer, holds the position. Previously, she held educational training positions for 15 years with the Nebraska State Patrol; before that, she started out as an elementary school teacher before becoming an elementary school principal.
The job description of the security director’s duties is well defined: “providing leadership and support for safety and security for the public schools”; and the legislation is clear as to the education departments and director’s duties.
The duties include:
• Collect present safety and security plans from all school districts; it directs local school districts to cooperate with the director and allows the education department to withhold those plans from the public (from the planning of a future perpetrator).
• Recommend minimum standards for school security for public school buildings in Nebraska.
• Conduct an assessment, to be completed by Aug. 31, 2019, of the security of each of Nebraska’s 1,130 public school buildings.
• Identify deficiencies in each schools’ security based on the minimum standards adopted by the state board of education, and make recommendations to school boards for remedying such deficiencies.
• Establish security awareness, preparedness tools and training programs.
• Establish research-based model instructional programs for staff, students and parents to address the underlying causes for violent attacks on schools.
• Respond to inquiries and requests for assistance relating to school security from private, denominational and parochial schools.
This year, we added, within LB 1081, a statutory provision requiring school boards to collaborate with their local county attorney and law enforcement officials to review the schools’ rules and standards for student conduct and require the school to contact law enforcement if a student displayed such conduct.
In Nebraska, we value local control of our educational facilities. Citizens, through their state senators, do create statutes giving direction to their elected state board of education on matters that concern them; the board in turn directs and advises local elected school boards. The state board is then required to measure their performance. School security is, and should be, a local issue decided by local voters through their elected local school board. They have tools available to them.
They can create an inter-local agreement with local law enforcement to have a police officer on site at school buildings, as North Platte Public Schools presently does, or they can hire a security officer themselves.
Through LB 923 and school accreditation requirements, school districts should have in place a school security plan. NPPS has done so with the creation of a “School Safety Committee” of law enforcement officials and school administrative staff.
School districts can create a secure entrance to their school buildings and install metal detecting devices, as the Lincoln County Commissioners recently did at the courthouse with an investment of $23,724 for scanning equipment.
Providing a safe environment for our school children is a local issue.
Local school boards have the authority to spend your tax dollars on projects they deem to be their top priorities. One would think the safety of our children would be at the top of that list.
Contact Sen. Mike Groene at email@example.com or 402-471-2729.