In the wake of school shootings across the county, Gov. Kay Ivey is taking precautionary action. On Wednesday she announced a new plan that provides for an additional security measure in schools that do not have a School Resource Officer (SRO).
Dubbed the Alabama Sentry Program, the voluntary program will permit administrators in schools, without an SRO, to maintain a firearm on campus in a secured safe in order to be prepared to respond to an active shooter situation. The Sentry Program will require that the administrator successfully complete training created and certified by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). 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.
“The Governor’s SAFE Council recommended adding more School Resource Officers throughout our state, a solution that I support, and will work with the legislature to implement. However, until we have a concrete plan to increase the number of SROs, we must provide a way for schools to protect their students in the upcoming school year. I have created the Alabama Sentry Program to provide additional security measures for our children, and to utilize the current summer break to train those who volunteer to be a sentry,” Ivey explained.
“The Alabama Sentry plan is a reasonable and measured approach to provide an additional tool for schools without a resource officer. With the unfortunate continued occurrence of school violence across our country, we cannot afford to wait until the next legislative session.”
The Sentry Program will be established immediately, through administrative action, under existing law, as a bill to arm school teachers failed this legislative session.
Joining Ivey for the announcement were Alabama Secretary of Law Enforcement Hal Taylor and Alabama’s new Superintendent of Education, Dr. Eric Mackey.
“I believe this is a common-sense approach to increasing security in our schools. The SAFE Council worked hard with officials from around the state to create a list of recommendations. I applaud Governor Ivey and members of the SAFE Council for creating this program,” Taylor said. “School security is one of the highest priorities for law enforcement and this program will help first responders identify and stop threats quicker and before they happen.”
A school administrator must seek the approval of their local superintendent, local school board, and county sheriff to participate in the Sentry Program. School administrators seeking to assume the duties of school sentry:
- must possess a valid Alabama school administrator certificate and a valid concealed-carry pistol permit;
- must be appointed as a reserve sheriff’s deputy;
- must be an active school administrator in a public elementary or secondary school without an SRO;
- and must pass a drug screening, a mental-health assessment, and a stress test.
Sentries will be subject to random drug screenings, annual training, mental-health, and stress test recertification.
“Schools are sanctuaries of learning and, as such, they must be safe places for our children to learn, knowing that the adults around them are watching out for their safety and security. With recent events around our country, now is the time to act,” Dr. Mackey added. “The Alabama Sentry Program is one way for us to put more safety resources in schools without having to seek new funding. This is truly a step in the right direction. I look forward to working with Secretary Taylor and the entire SAFE Council to implement this program.”
A school sentry’s duties will be written to include “the use of 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.” School sentries shall only exercise their duties in response to an armed intruder.
School sentries will be required to keep their firearms in a secured weapon storage system. School sentries, or their employing board of education, shall be responsible for acquiring and maintaining a weapons-storage system, an approved weapon, ammunition, and a specially-designed bullet-proof vest.
The program is slated to be in place to start the 2018-2019 school year.