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Lawmakers reviewing school security practices

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana's state education chief suggested Thursday that lawmakers should toughen a 2001 state law that requires public schools to have a written crisis management plan, after a review prompted by the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

"The events of last month clearly re-enforce the need for vigilance," Superintendent of Education John White told the House homeland security committee.

White recommended that school districts involve local law enforcement in designing the crisis response and preparation blueprints.

He said the law should require rehearsal of the plans in schools and should push for greater detail to be included, like adding training standards for educators. He also said the crisis outlines should be more transparent, available to parents and updated regularly.

"There are some good elements in existing law, but there are some weaknesses as well," said Charles "Chas" Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The House committee heard from education leaders and law enforcement officials about what school and college campus security measures already exist - and what could be done to strengthen them.

Higher education officials said they are reconvening the emergency response teams and reviewing safety plans they established after the shooting deaths of 32 people on the campus of Virginia Tech in April 2007.

Among the suggestions offered to lawmakers were more funding for school resource officers, greater coordination between districts and police agencies and a review of locks on all classroom doors to ensure they work.

Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, chairman of the committee, said the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness needs to take the lead on coordinating some of the efforts.

In addition to the House review of school safety preparations, Gov. Bobby Jindal formed a 13-member study group to review the issue, led by Col. Mike Edmonson, head of the Louisiana State Police, and Jimmy LeBlanc, secretary of the corrections department.

Edmonson said the group will make its suggestions for statutory changes it thinks are necessary to lawmakers in advance of the regular legislative session that begins in April.

Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, said she'll be proposing a measure that would require elementary schools in Louisiana to have armed security guards.

"It would give us as grandparents and parents the opportunity to feel safe," she said.

The shootings in Newtown, Conn., were the second-largest school shooting in the country's history. A gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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