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Georgia developing Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams to respond to school safety threats around state

Gov. Kemp issued a rundown of the various efforts state agencies make to keep schools safe.

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp provided an outline Wednesday of the various school safety programs, trainings and review processes that are in place in the wake of the horrific killing of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

The shooting at Robb Elementary School is the second deadliest on record in the United States, a searing tragedy in which most of the victims were grade school children.

In Georgia, Gov. Kemp issued a rundown of state agencies' various efforts to keep schools safe. The governor's successful push earlier this year to relax Georgia's gun carry laws will likely face renewed scrutiny following the events in Texas. 

One of the governor's most concrete plans calls for Georgia Emergency Management & Homeland Security (GEMA) to create Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams to be deployed throughout the state and "respond to threats or concerning behavior that may be considered a pathway to violence" as well as "provide assistance and guidance to local schools, systems, and communities in an effort to mitigate potential threats to life."

“As the parents of three daughters – including one who is a first-grade teacher – Marty and I join all Georgians in mourning yesterday’s senseless targeting of school children in Texas,” Kemp said in a statement. “Focusing on school safety and improving Georgia’s mental health system are two issues that we tackled immediately upon taking office in 2019."

RELATED: Georgia school districts react to Texas school tragedy

The governor added that he wanted to "reassure Georgia families today that we have worked closely with the General Assembly and state agencies to ensure our students and educators have secure learning environments."

The rundown of state efforts includes law enforcement presence - including eight Homeland Security Coordinators around the state "whose primary function is to assist schools and local law enforcement with school safety," several training programs and a number of safety reviews. Kemp also touted nearly $70 million allocated in 2019 - roughly $30,000 per school in Georgia - for school security measures and smaller amounts that have been dedicated to student mental health.

According to Kemp, 300 school resource officers will also be trained this year by the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, with the center currently "reviewing basic SRO curriculum considering recent events in Uvalde, Texas."

"Any necessary protocol updates will be included in the next SRO class and will continue in the future," a release from the governor said.

The release listed the following programs and policies GEMA as among those the state is utilizing to ensure school safety:

  • GEMA will host a school safety conference from June 21-23 in Columbus to provide training to law enforcement and education personnel, with over 450 people from 119 counties so far registered to attend.
  • GEMA is "currently redeveloping the Georgia School Safety Plan template" with input and guidance from the Georgia Department of Education and UGA's Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The new template will be unveiled at the Columbus conference in June.
  • GEMA is in the process of creating Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams to be deployed throughout the state, which will be led by the eight Homeland Security Coordinators and "will respond to threats or concerning behavior that may be considered a pathway to violence."
  • GEMA has developed a "Site Threat Access and Response Audit" (STAR Audit) for school systems to "identify vulnerabilities at their facilities and improve their level of safety."
  • GEMA "assists schools and school systems with threats" on a regular basis through its Homeland Security Division Intel Unit.

Additionally, the release listed a number of trainings conducted in the state while the governor has been in office:

  • The state has held over 120 Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) trainings to more than 400 personnel while Kemp has been in office. The trainings "identify a true active shooter, examine the history of active shooter incidents and discuss the possible response to various active shooter situations."
  • The eight Homeland Security Coordinators around the state have performed 540 School Safety Site Assessments while the governor has been in office, to "gauge existing or potential hazards, conditions or practices that are present."
  • The Homeland Security Coordinators have also "provided additional feedback and guidance" on more than 130 school safety plans while the governor has been in office.

   

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