OP-ED in Columbus Ledger-Enquirer “Brian Kemp is putting Georgia students’ safety first”

October 18, 2018

BY JAN JONES

Special to the Ledger-Enquirer 

October 01, 2018 04:57 PM

After 17 students were gunned down at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., hardworking Georgians demanded further action.

During the previous legislative session, state lawmakers allocated $16 million for local schools to secure their facilities. We pledged our strong, steadfast commitment to protecting students. We promised to do our part moving forward.

Recently, I was proud to stand with businessman Brian Kemp as he announced a comprehensive plan for school security in Georgia. As a mother of four children, this issue strikes close to home. Every parent’s top priority is the safety of their children when they are in another’s care. As a husband and father of three teenage daughters, Brian understands this concern firsthand.

During his time in the State Senate, Kemp chaired the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and led the bipartisan effort on courthouse security reform. As Secretary of State, Kemp oversees the office’s internal law enforcement unit which stops charities fraud and partnered with local authorities to crack down on illegal message spas and sex trafficking.

As governor, Brian will be committed to public safety reform and keeping Georgia families safe. I know he will work around the clock to protect our students.

Kemp’s school safety plan has three components: designate and fund a Support Counselor per Georgia high school to address mental health issues, allocate one-time funding for “hardening” facilities, and create a School Safety Division within the Georgia Department of Education.

Modeled after Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Graduation Coach program, Kemp will champion a Support Counselors program to assist and guide students who are battling mental health issues, opioid abuse, violence in the home, bullying and suicide. These counselors would also work to improve graduation rates by providing valuable guidance, and connecting students and families with available academic resources and services.

By placing these counselors at our schools, we can meet the needs of Georgia students, reduce the burden on classroom teachers, and ultimately address many of the challenges and situations that compromise school safety and student success.

Kemp strongly believes that parents, teachers, administrators, and school board members should determine the best ways to keep students safe.

After consulting with local superintendents and school security specialists, Kemp — together with members of the General Assembly — will be pushing for $30,000 to each of the 2,292 public schools in Georgia to be used for school security purposes. These solutions could include security personnel, cameras, single-point access systems and crisis management systems. This funding would be in addition to the $16 million the General Assembly appropriated for school safety in 2018.

Finally, Kemp will establish a School Safety Division at the Department of Education to develop central hub for best practices, train district personnel and administrators, and maintain an open dialogue with local school districts on current threats and needs.

Led by a former law enforcement official with support staff, the School Safety Division will be tasked with reviewing school security proposals and administering the one-time funding in the Kemp plan.

Student safety is a top priority for Brian Kemp and leaders in the Georgia General Assembly. With your support in November, conservatives will continue to work together at the State Capitol to put the safety of your children first.

Jan Jones is the state representative for House District 47 in the General Assembly and also serves as the House Speaker Pro-Tempore