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Jones: Current law lets schools arm resource, security officers

A proposed bill that would have authorized local school districts in Alabama to arm school personnel was set for a vote in the House of Representatives this week, but on Wednesday, Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said the bill is being put on hold until next year.

Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said one reason to not address the proposed legislation was that local boards are already authorized to arm school personnel.

Section 16-1-44.1 of the Code of Alabama states, “A local board of education may allow any person employed by the board as school security personnel or as a school resource officer to carry a firearm while on duty.”

The code section requires that employee to:

  • Be certified by the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission and to successfully complete active shooter training;
  • Annually pass the firearm requalification required of law enforcement officers;
  • Carry a non-lethal weapon and be trained in the use of that non-lethal weapon.

The section became effective in May of 2013.

Jones said he was a proponent of doing more research before passing the bill that was proposed this year.

“This was studied by a task force back in 2012,” he said. “The training is far more strenuous as currently written than was being proposed. There was not time to do the due diligence needed before passing a new bill.”

Jones said he met with local superintendents Ted Watson, Shannon Driver and Michael Smithart Monday morning to get their feedback before the vote that was expected this week.

“I needed to know if they knew this was on the books,” he said. “They did not.”

Jones also is proposing that the legislature consider research conducted by the U.S. Secret Service and published last month on making schools safer. The Secret Service plan is available on the agency’s website. The plan addresses threat assessment and managing risks by creating a comprehensive prevention plan.

“It is incredibly good information,” Jones said.

Any new legislation also should take into account special circumstances, he said, citing a school in rural Alabama that is 55 minutes away from the nearest law enforcement and can only be reached by ferry.

“We don’t want what we do to be written in such tight language that it would not allow systems to address unique, factual scenarios,” he said.

The legislature has passed the General Fund budget, and is expected to finish the Education Trust Fund budget today, he said. It will likely adjourn the 2018 regular session next week.

However, he said, he believes the issue of providing security in schools is worthy of a special session, potentially after the June primaries.