ALABAMA — Alabama school administrators, who get approval from local authorities and go through training, will be permitted to have guns at schools under a new state program.
Administrators who meet the requirements would be able to “use lethal force to defend the students, faculty, staff, and visitors of his or her school from the threat of imminent bodily harm or death by an armed intruder,” according to a memo signed by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday.
In order to qualify for the newly created Alabama Sentry Program, school administrators would need approval from their county sheriff, local superintendent and school board, to have firearms to respond to school shootings.
Under the voluntary program, only schools that don’t have a school resource officer will be allowed to participate.
An Alabama school safety task force that was assembled after the Parkland, Florida, shooting recommended school resource officers for all districts. Until there are more such officers throughout the state, the sentry program is a way to protect students, Ivey said.
The Republican governor touted the program as a “reasonable, measured approach to provide an additional tool for schools without a resource officer.”
By signing an executive memo, Ivey didn’t need state lawmakers to pass a bill.
“With the unfortunate continuance of occurrence of school violence in our schools across the nation, we simply cannot afford to wait until the next legislative session,” she said in her announcement.
The Alabama Sentry Program is to start in the upcoming school year with training for administrators to begin this summer.
In order for administrators to qualify, the sentry program requires the following:
hold an Alabama school administrator certificate
have a concealed-carry pistol permit
work at a school that doesn’t have a school resource officer
pass drug screening, mental-health assessment and stress test
be sworn as a reserve deputy county sheriff
undergo mandatory training that is designed by Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
be subject to random drug screenings, training recertification, annual mental health and stress assessments
The program doesn’t include teachers.
“Unlike teachers, school administrators have complete access to their schools and are responsible for the safety of all students at the school, not an individual classroom,” according to the governor’s press release.
If a school shooting occurs, the sentry is to wear a designated bullet-proof vest that would be easily identifiable, so responding officers would be able to recognize it.
A state school safety team will determine what type of firearms and weapons storage system will be allowed. The sentries and the local board of education will be responsible for getting and maintaining the weapon, its storage system, ammunition and the bullet-proof vest.
The controversy over arming school staff
In the months since the school shooting in Parkland, several states have proposed bills or resolutions related to arming school personnel, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. In March, Florida approved a law that would allow arm some teachers with the consent of both the local school district and sheriff’s department.
After a high school shooting that left 10 dead in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a plan Wednesday to improve school safety that included more armed school marshals in classrooms.
The concept of arming teachers or school personnel has been controversial as some critics argue that it poses dangers for students of color and has a militarizing effect on schools.
The Alabama chapter of Moms Demand Action, a group that calls for gun reform, posted on its Facebook page: “There is no evidence that arming teachers or other school staff or administrators will protect children in schools. School officials have other jobs they are meant to be doing. They aren’t trained sharpshooters and don’t have ongoing training.”