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Gainesville schools will conduct more 'intruder alert drills,' possibly train teachers in anti-gang best practices under new law

The Gainesville Times - 5/1/2023

May 1—The Gainesville City school board on Monday, May 1, heard an update about House Bill 147, known as the Safe Schools Act, which will require all public schools to conduct "intruder alert drills" before Oct. 1 each year.

HB 147 also tasks the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Professional Standards Commission with creating a voluntary "anti-gang endorsement" that would train teachers in "best practices for promoting and preserving safe schools and for identifying and deterring youth gangs."

The district's security manager, Bonner Burton, briefed board members on the new bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in mid-April.

Code red drills

Officials say schools already conduct intruder alert drills, otherwise known as code red or hard lockdown drills. Under the new legislation, though, they will increase in frequency, from twice a year to three times a year.

The results of each drill must be reported to GEMA for review.

Superintendent Jeremy Williams said students and staff will be given a heads up before the first drill of the year, while only school administrators will be made aware of the second drill. The third drill will be a surprise to everyone except the school board and security officials.

Williams said parents will be notified of the drills beforehand so they aren't frightened when they receive text messages from their children while the drills are underway.

However, parents can submit a written request to the school board to opt their children out of the drills.

Anti-gang training

Officials say the requirements of the anti-gang endorsement have not yet been developed, but they anticipate them being finalized by July 1.

Burton, a former longtime member of the Hall County Sheriff's Office, said the endorsement is probably not as pertinent for Gainesville City Schools as it is for other districts like Gwinnett County Public Schools, though he and other officials say they aren't quite sure how much gang activity there might be in the school system.

"We're not seeing gang graffiti on walls or things like that," Burton said. As for the city generally, he added, "The gang situation in our city is not what it was in the late '90s, early 2000s."


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