Comprehensive audits will be conducted this month at all 100+ schools and buildings across the Fulton County School System to identify risks or hazards that could compromise student and staff safety.
The initiative follows a nationwide focus on school safety, primarily active shooter threats, which have escalated over the past several years. Since the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012 which killed 26 students and staff, there have been 239 incidents involving guns in schools, according to Gun Violence Archive, an organization which tracks school-based incidents.
Shannon Flounnory, PhD., executive director of safety and security for Fulton County Schools, said the assessments are part of the district’s school safety program, and will be conducted by an outside vendor.
“[The assessments] will assist the district in identifying additional measures that we may want to consider for even greater enhancements to our existing protocols, procedures and processes,” Flounnory said, adding that the assessments should be complete by the end of September.
Funding for the initiative comes from the $30,000 per school grant provided to all public schools under Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget for school safety programs. Fulton Schools will receive more than $3 million of the $69 million allocated statewide under Kemp’s budget.
Results of the assessments, Flounnory said, will be used to assist local school administrations, PTAs and School Governance councils on how to best use the grants for specific needs at their schools.
“The [results] will provide leaders with a strategic and methodical plan that aligns with our overall goal of continued enhancements for emergency preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery,” Flounnory said.
He noted Fulton Schools has been a leader across the state in prioritizing safety and security for students, pointing to the nearly $16 million allocated for new initiatives under the current Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. The 5-year, one-cent sales tax expires in 2022.
Major areas funded in the current SPLOST include digital surveillance systems at each school, police vehicles and equipment, an internal communication system for crisis management, a system that allows schools to share data with local police departments and a new approach to social media monitoring.
“The social media tool, SAMs, is specific to emergency management,” Flounnory said. “[It] scans public social media platforms using search terms and then alerts FCS of events, nationally or locally, that might impact its operations.”
Last year, Fulton Schools invested nearly $2.4 million to hire 16 additional school police officers to expand the reach of officers in schools. The money was also used to add 10 additional Campus Security officers and establish an online mental health resource center for students.
Flounnory noted the Fulton County Schools Police Department is among the largest in the state with 70 certified police officers, and one of the few with SWAT-trained officers.
The Georgia Emergency Management/Homeland Security Agency will support the district as it implements protocols and strategies for school safety. The agency’s School Safety division provides information and assistance to local districts across a wide spectrum of planning.
“GEMA/HS provides training by request for school personnel, including citizen response to active shooter, front office safety, and Stop the Bleed,” said Lisa Rodriguez-Presley, external affairs supervisor for the agency.