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Georgia bill tackles school safety but sidesteps guns

The GOP measure to enhance school safety has passed the State Senate.

ATLANTA — The Georgia Senate passed a bill Wednesday designed to enhance school safety. It addresses security and intelligence gathering. It does not address guns.

Republicans wanted to find ways to make schools safer without getting into the contentious business of gun politics. So they concentrated thwarting possible threats to school sites, and how to make them more secure.

"Our goal is to identify a problem before it happens, and put our arms around these young folks before they go down a dark path," said Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), the bill sponsor.  

In 2018, Albers led a study committee that took testimony around Georgia on school safety, with an eye on introducing SB 15

The bill calls for threat assessments taken at each school, with a school safety plan submitted to state officials. Schools would have annual drills. They’d appoint a safety coordinator – which could be the principal – and the bill calls for use of a smartphone app for tipsters to report possible threats.

"Were the issues of guns and school safety ever addressed in any of these hearings?" State Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta) asked Albers during the Senate debate. Albers reiterated that the focus of the bill was prevention and the physical security of schools.

Guns may have been the elephant in the room, but not in this bill.  The measure was produced in response to mass shootings in Parkland Florida and other schools. But the measure makes no mention of curtailing firearms.

The bill passed with votes from all the Senate’s Republicans – and most, but not all of its Democrats. Sen. Jordan was among the Democrats voting in favor of the bill. State Sen. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) voted against it.

"I don’t feel like what we’ve voted on today makes me feel any safer when I drop my child off at school," Williams said afterward. "And to pass a bill and not even address guns in our schools is disingenuous."

The school safety bill goes to the House.  Republicans who run things at the Capitol have said the measure is a priority.

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