Woodward, Okla. —
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Legislation requiring Oklahoma public schools to conduct drills to prepare students and teachers for possible intruders was approved by a state House committee Tuesday.
The measure, passed by the House Education Committee 16-0, is among recommendations submitted to lawmakers earlier this month by the Oklahoma Commission on School Security, a task force created after last year's deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
The commission's chairman, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, said the task force's recommendations have received overwhelming support in the Legislature.
"Thus far there has not been a single 'no' vote on any recommendation from the Oklahoma Commission on School Security," Lamb said. "The Legislature has demonstrated again that school security is a non-partisan issue."
House Speaker T.W. Shannon, the bill's House author, said like fire, tornado and other drills already conducted at Oklahoma schools, children and faculty members must be prepared for emergencies involving intruders.
"Unfortunately, we live in a world where our children being targets of a heinous act is a reality," Shannon said.
The bill now goes to the full House, where it is expected to pass. It has already been approved by the Senate.
The bill would require public schools to conduct at least two intruder drills each school year in an attempt to avoid casualties by an armed intruder. Each drill would be conducted in the first 15 days of each semester.
The 22-member School Security Commission was formed just days after the December shooting rampage that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The commission has made five recommendations, including creating a statewide school security institute that would coordinate and standardize school security procedures statewide.
Oklahoma's program would operate under the state Office of Homeland Security and would cost about $500,000 to launch, according to officials. It would act as the lead agency in providing training and security procedures and could expand its work to include school security officers and architectural designs to make schools safer.
Other recommendations by the task force include mental health training for school staffs and requiring that unauthorized firearms discovered on a school's grounds be reported to law enforcement authorities. Bills based on the recommendations are scheduled to be heard by a House committee next week.